How I Became a Jimmy Johnson Fan
My First Race
The first stock car race I ever saw was at a dirt track in Chemung, New York on a July 4th when I was a kid of maybe twelve. I went with my Uncle Nelson, Daddy and cousin Dave. I think that was also the first fireworks I ever saw. I rooted for the underdog and by the end of the day he won a race.
Growing up I remembered some names of drivers who were featured in black and white TV news stories – Richard Petty, Bill Elliot, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Mario Andretti were a few names that when I heard them I knew they were race car drivers. But I wasn’t a die-hard fan.
Jimmy and Car 48
Local Track Opens
In the 1990s a track opened near my hometown, East Carolina Motor Speedway, and my daughter was dating a feller who worked on a pit crew for his cousin. Going to the races became a regular weekend event for us. I loved the noise and excitement. I was caught up in the gossip – rivals, drama, and such was part of the conversation between races. Then I moved away and didn’t think all that much about stock car racing, just catching who won on the Monday morning news. A few names were “house hold” so I vaguely knew who were the top drivers.
One member of my brood was deeply immersed in the race culture. She lived in South Carolina and she and her boyfriend hosted Sunday afternoon race parties. Their parties involved cooking pork, bringing the TV outdoors to a picnic table where all could see it while they drank beer, played horseshoes and placed friendly bets on their favorite drivers.
Becoming a Fan
It was at one of those parties that I became a Jimmy Johnson fan. I was visiting and the season was just starting. The regulars invited me to join the championship pool. When I protested I didn’t have the money to go in the pot my daughter generously offered to pay my entry. Then I had to pick a driver. I threw out a name or two I was familiar with and they’d been taken already. The next name I thought of was Jimmy Johnson. So, Deborah added me to the pool with my money on Jimmy. That was the first year Jimmy won the Sprint Cup Series Championship. I’ve been rooting for him ever since. That race party brought me a long way from rooting for the under dog, which Jimmy is NOT. Not anymore.
A quick search online finds Jimmy Johnson’s racing career began in California at the age of five when he entered his first motorcycle race. He moved up to bigger bikes, and then cars. The rest is history as they say. I feel a little disloyal, since NASCAR has its roots in my home state of North Carolina and the moonshine culture for which we’re notorious. I should probably at least have picked a Southern boy.
But, its fun to support a winner, although Johnson can frustrate this fan like when he ran out of gas at Michigan International Speedway just going into the last lap last summer, then just this month he wrecked his car on the third lap at the Texas Motor Speedway.
I was working last Sunday, November 15th, and watching him win at Phoenix International Raceway. He had to do it, having wrecked the week before. He’ll have to finish 25th or under this weekend to lose his grip on the fourth cup championship in a row. The problem, as I see it, is that anything can happen in a race. I am hoping Jimmy makes racing history – the first to win four times in a row, but this year I don’t have any money on him.
PS - Too bad, I would have won the pool!
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