An Open Letter to Jimmie Johnson on Your Retirement:


Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs

I wasn’t supposed to be a NASCAR fan. I was that kid who kept her nose in a book throughout her education. I was destined to be a serious writer with interests in chess, French literature, and the arts. All that changed, however, when I flipped through the TV channels and sat mesmerized, watching you drive the wheels off a Chevy one afternoon in California on your way to your first win in a Cup car. I saw the finesse with which you drove, the science of the pit stops, and the sportsmanship you showed to your fellow competitors, and I fell in love with racing that afternoon.

I’ve been told many times over the past 18 years that I don’t look like a typical NASCAR fan. Those people, of course, aren’t fans at all. If they were, they’d know that there’s no such thing as a typical NASCAR fan. We come from all walks of life, and when we sit together in the stands at the track, we’re the same; we’re race fans. Whatever number we’re wearing on our shirts or our caps, we’re the same. That goes for the drivers, too. They’re from many different places, and they share one thing among them: a desire to win.  

Many of those drivers are seeking their first trip to Victory Lane, and others are hoping for a shot at greater glory with membership in the Hall of Fame. One thing is certain. In some small way, whether they’ve lost to you, battled against you, or hated you, they all want to be you.

After 83 wins, seven championships, and an inevitable lock on a first ballot entry in the Hall of Fame, no other driver in this era of racing has accomplished more for the sport, and every driver (and every fan) is better for having witnessed your greatness firsthand.

I’ve locked horns with many racing fans who spoke your name with hatred on their lips, but in nearly every case, I’ve left those arguments having convinced them that even if they don’t like you (which was usually because you were winning and preventing “their driver” from finding Victory Lane), they at least owed you respect for your achievements. I had to get them to realize that they were getting to see history made in the sport they love. When would another driver win five consecutive championships again? It might not ever happen again, but they got to see it. Even if they weren’t your fans, they had to respect the driver who’d made that mark.

Over the years, I’ve planned events around races so that I didn’t miss any of the on-track action. I’ve decorated my office with memorabilia from your race wins. I’ve had the opportunity to meet you and talk with you on multiple occasions. For NASCAR fans, apart from fans in almost every other sport, we are blessed with opportunities that give us direct access to our favorite drivers, and we begin to feel a camaraderie with our fellow race fans as well as our favorite drivers. We’ll miss seeing you at the track, but I’m thrilled that I’ll still get to watch you compete in an INDYCAR for at least two seasons. Know this: I’ll be rooting for you just as much as I have since you won that first race in California all those years ago. Thanks for everything you’ve done for NASCAR, Jimmie. You’ll always be the reason I’m a race fan.




One final time, Stacey Owens
An Open Letter to Jimmie Johnson on Your Retirement: An Open Letter to Jimmie Johnson on Your Retirement: Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Wednesday, November 04, 2020 Rating: 5