NASCAR and Sports history were made yesterday when six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson won his 76th race tying the late Dale Earnhardt’s total on the all-time wins list.
Fans of Johnson are thrilled to see this milestone met and cheer him on enthusiastically to continue to win, break records, and eventually tie both Earnhardt and Richard Petty who currently are the only two drivers who have earned seven championships in NASCAR’s top series.
Johnson simply does his job week in and week out rarely talking about records, but humbly accepts that his statistics are continuously racking up in the annals of the NASCAR history books.
Several people commented yesterday upon learning of this latest feat Johnson completed. Many were gracious and offered hearty congratulations. Some were bold and stated Johnson will be the best there ever was in the sport. And then there were those who had little nice to say about Johnson.
Earnhardt fans are everywhere. Even though 15 years have passed since The Intimidator was lost his fans are still diehard Earnhardt supporters who revel in the man’s successes on and off the track. They are fiercely protective of The Man in Black’s legacy, records, and greatness in NASCAR.
So, when Earnhardt fans react negatively to Johnson’s accomplishments, it’s understandable.
It is human nature to want to hold on to the heroes in your life. We collectively want to freeze time and space to live in the greatness that surrounds our chosen one.
As new challengers emerge that threaten the records of those from our past we feel threatened, frustrated, and violated. It’s natural.
We’ve seen it happen in baseball for decades as records for hitting, pitching, homeruns, etc. are constantly being met and/or broken.
What’s important to remember is that the people who set the records will always hold a place in history. Their contribution to the sport is written and cannot be erased.
Earnhardt will forever be the man who tied King Richard Petty’s seven championships and had an impressive 76 race wins. He died and his totals stopped. It sucks. He very well could have added to those columns, but it’s a moot point.
Johnson is the driver who currently has the momentum, the drive, and the career to put him into consideration for tying and breaking records. Like it or lump it, this is the era of Johnson.
If fans of the sport take a step back they’d see that Johnson is making history before their eyes.
I’m an Earnhardt fan. Always have been, always will be.
Johnson’s successes and milestones do nothing to shake that ferocity I feel for “my driver”.
But I know my driver will never add to his totals.
Earnhardt is the undisputed champion in my heart and the hearts of millions of others.
Johnson has his own fans who feel passionately for his accomplishments. That’s how it works.
So I offer Johnson congratulations on the milestone. It’s fine, because I know he’ll never replace my driver where it matters, in my heart.