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Woody: Johnson A Great ‘Roll Model’ For Racing

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 1 2010

it seems the only thing to not like about Jimmie Johnson is his niceness. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

The more I see of Jimmie Johnson – and I’ve been seeing a lot of him lately on almost every TV news channel – the more impressed I am by him.

Understand, Johnson’s national exposure is nothing new. This is the fifth consecutive season in which he represents NASCAR as it champion.

But it almost seems that Jimmie is just now finally – almost grudgingly – being appreciated for what he truly is: a great driver and a splendid representative of his sport. He’s NASCAR’s Mr. Perfect.

Nobody, not even the most rabid Hendrick Motorports detractors, can deny that Johnson ranks high among the greatest drivers ever to buckle on a helmet. No driver in NASCAR history ever put together a five-year string to equal Jimmie’s.

He has won five straight titles during a period in which there are more good drivers in the field – top to bottom – than at any time in NASCAR history.

Johnson’s talent and ability are indisputable.

About the only thing critics can criticize is Johnson’s persona, which is as impeccable as his performance. They claim he’s too bland, too vanilla, too white-bread to represent a sport founded by rowdies and rascals.

I used to feel the same way. But I’ve changed my mind.

The old days of stock car racing are gone, and gone forever. There are no more refugees from the mills and farms and factories who took to racing to escape the tedium and pursue a better paycheck.

The days of skinned knuckles, dirty fingernails and tobacco splats on pit road are over. Ditto for the era of wild neon nights, trackside temptress and automobiles bobbing in motel swimming pools.

It’s a New NASCAR, and has been for several years. Goodbye Curtis Turner and Little Joe Weatherly, hello Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

The New NASCAR is part image, part performance, and Jimmie personifies both. He is clean-cut and articulate, handsome and personable, a domesticated family man whose only personal-life “controversy” involved falling off a golf cart.

In this sport there are no secrets. If there’s something going on in a driver’s off-camera life you quickly hear the whispers, and so far Johnson’s life remains whisper-free.

How many other pro sports would crawl through broken glass and glowing embers to have a flawless superstar like Johnson as its face in public? How many parents would be delighted for their kids to emulate Jimmie’s character and life-style?

And he’s going to be around for awhile. As incredible as the past five seasons have been for Johnson, he’s only 35 and in his prime. If the past and the present are incredible for NASCAR’s Mr. Perfect, just imagine what the future holds.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 1 2010


  • Nancy Anne says:

    Woody, I applaud your commentary! I’ve been reading many disturbing articles from “Jimmie bashers who are products of the media” we live in today. If Jimmie was Canadian, he would be revered by his peers, idolized by children entering into the sport of racing, and appreciated by parents. There would be skating ponds, recreational parks, streets, picnic areas and probably sporting goods retail outlets willing to put Jimmie Johnson’s name on the marquee. I can’t begin to understand why a certain ratio of Nascar fans don’t approve of Jimmie winning 5 consecutive championships in a row, deciding without any thought that “his winning is what’s destroying the sport today.” I just don’t get it, probably I never will comprehend, they probably don’t know themselves why they hate him so much. Everyone at sometime in life has to jump on a bandwagon just to be like everyone else instead of being individual, thinking for themselves and appreciating HISTORY!!!! THANK YOU, Woody, for speaking on behalf of ALL Jimmie Johnson fans around the globe. If there was a journalistic integrity Nascar media award, this article would be on display in Victory Lane.

  • Terry says:

    I agree with the good roll model and he is etching his name up there with the great ones……
    But articles about his golf game…(USAT)….constant shots of him holding the baby..(SPEED)…coverage that is just short of DANICA exchanging make up tips with Kasey Kahne..(ESPN-SI)… all the drivers as prestine after the race as at the start….while they just spent 3 hours driving clone go karts and complaining about a vibration in there WATERBOTTLE…..(NASCAR)
    YEAH …some of us MISS…dirty sweaty out of breath drivers who DRIVE the car more than cry about it…
    and yes..they might smoke and like women….

  • john says:

    Did you mean “Role” model?

  • Joey says:

    I agree Johnson is impressive, and as a Jr fan, that is hard to say. On track he is as clean cut as he is off track, which I think is why many fans don’t relate with him as well as other drivers. I think his inability to develop a rivalry speaks worlds about his driving ability but also may be part of the problem with viewership today. Hopefully 2011 will give him much more “gritty” competition from the 29 or the 11. Heck, or even the 88….. A man can dream.