Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kyle Petty: Jimmie Johnson is 'arguably the greatest driver ever'

NASCAR Race Hub's Matt Clark sat down with fellow NASCAR on Fox/Speed analyst Kyle Petty to talk about the many topics currently shaping the sport's landscape.

Among the topics, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Considering his father, 'The King' Richard Petty, and what he accomplished, Kyle might be one of the more unique voices to talk about Johnson's eventual place in history.

Clark: Why do people consider him, or don't consider him, a powerhouse?

Petty: He may be the most underrated driver, ever. Now, on the other side of that coin when you flip it over, he's arguably the greatest driver ever, when you look at it. I don't know why, I think when you go back in the history of the sport, and when you look at those early years, it was all about the driver. When you talk Richard Petty, you just talk Richard Petty. When you talk Dale Earnhardt, Sr., you just talk Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Nobody mentions Jimmie, without mentioning (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) or (car owner) (Rick) Hendrick.

Clark: I think thats', I don't want to say Jimmie's fault, but it's a good characteristic. He's a blue-collar guy that bought into the team concept and said, 'Hey, my team, my crew chief, the owner, it's all of us.'

Petty: He's preached the team concept so much, and people bought it from him so much, that now he can't escape that. We'll always think about Jimmie as, 'Jimmie and Chad and oh yeah, Hendrick, was a powerhouse during that time.' That's why he's won so many races. No. He drives the wheels off that thing. That's why he wins the races.

Clark: It will be 20 or 30 years before people sit back and see what he did was amazing.

Petty: Yeah. I can't believe that Jimmie Johnson's five championships in a row was not a bigger deal in the sports world than what it was


  1. I use to think a lot of Kyle but after this interview I feel he has his hair to long and it is pulling on what little brain he has. I would dearly love to see JJ back in the years of Petty, Earnhardt, Yarbrough, Allison. He would quit racing early and get out of the car crying.

    1. All things being equal – team, equipment, & funding, I think JJ would have stood very well against the top drivers of the past. I’m not a big Kyle Petty fan or JJ fan but I agree that Johnson is one of the best drivers to ever strap on a helmet.

    2. It's ironic to me how often someone accuses someone else of having a small brain, and the person doing the accusing doesn't know basic grammar. I'm not trying to be the "grammar police," but if you're going to make a comment about the size of a person's brain, it seems to me you would want to come across as having one yourself.

  2. Does anyone really care what Kyle and those wacky Waldip brothers think?

  3. If you look at the big names in racing, they were all 'the package'. Richard, Dale Inman, the crew; Dale and RCR, and the crew; Pearson with the Wood brothers and their crew; Gordon with Ray and the crew. It's never just one person that makes the team. Nothing new here.

  4. NASCAR is more competitive today than ever in the past. Never has the driver been able to make such a difference. So many drivers have access to top notch equipment. If Johnson can dominate an era when everyone is driving fast stuff, what on Earth would cause anyone to believe that he wouldn't do great in an era where only 5 cars had any chance at all of winning any given week? I'm an Earnhardt fan and not at all a Johnson fan. It's just obvious to anyone who appreciates racing. The guy you hate because he wins all the time IS good. Accept it and live your life from there. Doesn't mean you have to cheer for him.

  5. I readily acknowledge that Jimmie Johnson is the cream of the crop of today's drivers; however, it is always hard to reach conclusive comparisons of athletes from different eras, probably more so in motorsports than stick and ball sports. Richard Petty, at least in the early part of his career, raced during the days when drivers frequently did not walk away from accidents, when winnings meant everything, and it was no holds barred; if you did not win enough prize money, you could not field a competitive car, or maybe not even a car, in the next race on the schedule. Earnhardt Sr raced during an era where sponsorship was certainly important and safety was still lacking, but the emphasis was still on what a driver did on the track rather than off. Jimmie Johnson's era, fortunately, is safer, but, unfortunately, is one where success is more determined by one's sponsor than one's on-track skills (the most obvious example of this being Danica Patrick, but that's a discussion for another comment to a different article). Oh, and I love the wording, "arguably the greatest drive ever;" any lawyer can "argue" any side of any issue. So my recommendation, let's enjoy watching Johnson and his contemporaries, and also enjoy the memories provided by Petty, Earnhardt, and so many others.