Guest Author - Debbie Lester
Jimmie Johnson is the man of the hour. After winning the Tums Quikpak 500 on Sunday everyone is talking. Could Jimmie Johnson be the next three time consecutive winner in NASCAR history? Will he hang on to join Cale Yarborough?
Jimmie Johnsonís hometown was El Cajon, California where he was born in September of 1975. At the age of five, with the support of his family Jimmie began racing 50cc motorcycles. His father worked for a tire company and his mom drove a school bus and on the weekends they went to race track. With Jimmie and his two bothers Jarit and Jessie in tow, his dad Gary helped prepare the track for races and his mom Cathy ran the concession stand. If was a family affair.
Jimmie was very successful on motorcycles at a young age and won a 60cc championship despite missing several of the races due to a blown out knee. From motorcycles he went on to the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG) Stadium Racing Series where he continued to win awards. Supercross champion Rick Johnson introduced the eager driver to Herb Fishel executive director of GM racing. Who wanted Johnson to become his new driver.
Johnson jumped at the opportunity and began racing buggies and trucks in off-road stadium and desert races. He began connecting with fans and sponsors by reporting for ESPN in the Short Course Off-Road Drivers Association Series (SODA). While working this series he met Randy and Stan Herzog. He drove an off-road truck for the Herzog brothers for the next two years. In 1998 Johnson got his first taste of pavement racing behind the wheel in an American Speed Association car. And heís never looked back.
Wins in the ASA series helped Johnson make the transition to the Nationwide Series and helped him develop a relationship with team owner Rick Hendrick. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon became acquainted when Johnson asked Gordon for some racing advice. Later Gordon became his mentor when he recommended Johnson to Rick Hendrick. Hendrick Motorsports offered Johnson a driver development deal which he was quick to accept.
Since that time Jimmieís racing career has taken off in leaps in bounds. In 2002 he was the first rookie to ever lead the points standings and he also swept the races at Dover. Johnson has placed fifth or better in every overall points race since 2002. (5th in 2002, 2nd in 2003, 2nd in 2004, 5th in 2005 and 1st in 2006 and 2007). And now he is bidding to make it three consecutive championships in 2008. With four races to go it will be interesting to see how Johnson approaches each race. Will he race to win? Or will he protect his point lead?
Johnson has proven on and off the track that he is a good representative for the sport. In 2006 he launched the Jimmie Johnson Foundation which is dedicated to assisting children, families, and communities in need through out the United States. He has worked with the Make A Wish Foundation, The Red Cross And Habitat For Humanity.
If Jimmie Johnson does become the next three time consecutive championship winner, it will not be a surprise. He is talented driver, working with a great organization. He has a long career ahead of him where we will not only hear more of his racing accomplishments, but also his humanitarian efforts.