LAS VEGAS, Nev. – If Jimmie Johnson’s stature as an athlete has grown since he won a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he hasn’t noticed a difference in the way he has been perceived.
But as far as recognition goes, that’s an entirely different matter.
“I feel like I’ve been recognized far more,” Johnson told the NASCAR Wire Service after the Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at the Wynn Las Vegas. “Maybe it’s because of the championship and people going out of their way to be friendly and congratulate me…
“In two weeks’ time, I feel like there’s been a change in awareness of who I am, which is pretty amazing.”
A change in attitude toward the Hendrick Motorsports driver started even before the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami. As Johnson rode around the track and waved to fans during pre-race ceremonies, he noticed a preponderance of seven-finger salutes in the grandstands—highlighting the number of championships he ultimately achieved.
“I’m very aware of (Dale) Earnhardt’s quote from way back, ‘As long as they’re making noise, you’re doing something right. I’ve said that in my mind many times.”
In less than three months, Johnson will begin his quest for an unprecedented eighth championship, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop enjoying No. 7.
“I’ll enjoy this forever,” he said. “Even if ‘8’ happens—and even if it doesn’t—this is such a big moment for me.”
NO REGRETS FOR CHAMPIONSHIP RUNNER-UP JOEY LOGANO
Joey Logano bulled his way into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami with a dramatic victory at Phoenix.
A week later, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he finished fourth in the season finale and second to Jimmie Johnson in the Championship standings.
Though he was disappointed with the second-place trophy, Logano has no regrets.
“You can look at it 6,000 different ways, but the one thing I took out of it is that we did a good job,” Logano said. “Our team was well-prepared to go down there with a good race car. Our pit crew was on it all the way through these 10 races. They showed that this whole team really is better under pressure, and that’s something I’m very proud of, because that will pay big dividends down the road.
“And we executed. We did everything we could do. We put ourselves in position to make it happen, and we just came up a little bit short. You can look at the circumstances a lot of different ways, but there’s no regrets. That was the biggest thing I was talking about before we went down there.
“I just want to make sure we’ve crossed every ‘T’ and dotted every ‘I’ and that, as a driver, I have thought of everything, so when I’m done with my career I can say, ‘There’s no regrets—I tried everything,’ and I honestly feel like we did.”
NOTABLE QUOTES FROM THE MYERS BROTHERS AWARDS LUNCHEON
“My mom would be so honored with this award… It touches my heart to look back and realize she’s left such a legacy,” – International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy, accepting the prestigious Myers Brothers Award on behalf of her late mother, Betty Jane France.
“This team knows one thing—winning. They’re the best at it, maybe the best we’ve ever had.” – Myers Brothers host Mike Joy of Fox Sports, speaking to Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team.
“’Unscripted’—yeah. I didn’t know I’d be up here accepting any awards. I thought I was just here for lunch.” – Kyle Busch, reading the single word from the teleprompter after receiving the Sherwin-Williams Fastest-Lap Award, the Duralast Brakes Brake in the Race Award and Exxon Mobil Driver of the Year Award.
“This has been a wild ride… I dreamed big, but I overshot those expectations.” – Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, accepting the Goodyear Gold Car Award.
“Petty, Earnhardt and Johnson—that has a pretty nice ring to it, don’t you think? Keep evolving, and we’ll be back here next year, celebrating No. 8.” – Robert Niblock, CEO of sponsor Lowe’s on the ability of Johnson and his team to adapt to changing championship formats.
“I normally don’t like surprises, but this is a really big deal, and we’ll make an exception for this.” – Roush Fenway Racing team owner Jack Roush, accepting the Federal Mogul Buddy Shuman Award.