The Hard Knocks That Inspired Jimmie Johnson’s Latest NASCAR Paint Job

Not that the NASCAR old-timers appear to be all torn up about it, but Jimmie Johnson, the only seven-time Cup champ who did not grow up in North Carolina, has had a rough ride these last 2½ years, losing 83 straight races, his long-time sponsor and two crew chiefs.

Johnson, who turns 44 in September, is in 18th place in the standings and is down to two races to qualify for the playoffs, which he has never missed. It is a remarkable streak, dating to 2004. Johnson won five titles in a row and won the championship as recently as 2016.

The 2016 title was his seventh Cup championship, which kind of burned up the NASCAR purists, because Johnson is from El Cajon, Calif., outside San Diego, and he grew up racing off-road motorcycles and vehicles, unlike the two other seven-timers, Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Johnson is classy and pleasant, and he has 2.6 million Twitter followers. But the old-timers have been miffed that Johnson has had a chance to win more titles than Petty and Earnhardt, two legends, especially since Chad Knaus, Johnson’s former crew chief, was known for bending the rules, if not breaking them. (As if the old-timers did not do stuff like that.)

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