On February 24th earlier this year, we watched Jimmie Johnson win the Daytona 500, a race that many consider the "Super Bowl" of NASCAR and the Sprint Cup Series. Today, he won the real championship, securing the top spot with a ninth-place finish at the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as Denny Hamlin took first. The victory gave Johnson his SIXTH championship in the past eight years, putting him just one behind Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, both of whom had seven (Petty in the '60s-'70s, Earnhardt in the '80s-'90s).
Think about that for a second. Johnson has been No. 1 in his sport six times, five of which were in a row from '06-'10 in just eight years. Based on those numbers, it's officially the most dominant patch of driving in the sport. It's become such a regular thing, seeing Johnson cross that line on top, that it's almost just like nobody is surprised, super excited about it anymore. It's just expected. It's like watching Tiger in his most dominant stage. But it should be a shock. It should be a surprise. This is an absolutely insane display of skill and dominance.
Yet ... the headline sits at No. 3 on its homepage slider right now, the night of the race, the victory, and the history.
It sits behind two regular season NFL games, which, yes, Saints/Niners and Chiefs/Manning are both very big games, but c'mon, ESPN. When other sports have their championships, the entire top fold of the website is taken over with 16 different angles of how the game was played. This man is proving to be one of the most important drivers to ever live. No matter what people say, NASCAR does have a large following (three of the most-watched sporting events of the first half of 2013 were Sprint Cup races), and what's happening IS important.
Even Hamlin, who, by the way, won this race after breaking his back earlier in the season, had this enormous statement: "Being out there and racing against him, I can say that I think he's the best there ever was. I think he's racing against competition that is tougher than the sport has ever seen."
It really is too bad that the storyline will just get buried in highlights of Robbie Gould kicking a game-winning OT field goal, disecting analysis of this Broncos game that will take up half of the hour-long SportsCenter, and hours upon hours of Mike & Mike and Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith jabbering about whether the Chiefs are legitimate and whether they could win a championship with Alex Smith.
And that's not even mentioning the fact that ESPN won't spend time on Sebastian Vettel winning his eight consecutive F1 race at the United States Grand Prix in Austin this weekend.
It's a damn shame, and everybody should be giving Jimmie Johnson more recognition. Maybe it'll take seven, or eight, or nine for that to come.