Chase Elliott: 'Class guy' Jimmie Johnson deserves more respect
While he may not be the “loud guy in the room,” Chase Elliott is still willing to speak up when he feels strongly about a topic and Jimmie Johnson’s legacy is near the top of the list.
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season marks the final fulltime season for Jimmie Johnson, who holds a record-tying seven Cup championships – including five in a row at one point – and 83 career victories.
While that resume is certain to earn him induction into the Hall of Fame, it hasn’t always garnered Johnson the appreciation Chase Elliott believes his teammate and mentor deserves.
“I don’t think he’s ever got the respect that he deserves over the course of his career. I think he’s the best to have come along,” Elliott said Wednesday during Daytona 500 Media Day.
“I think what he’s done, the amount of time he did it in, the way he did it, I just don’t see how that’s matched in my personal opinion. I think like I said, I don’t think he's ever got the respect he really deserves.”
In fact, even while Johnson’s final fulltime season has garnered a lot of attention, Elliott believes Johnson’s accomplishments may not be fully appreciated until after he’s left regular competition.
“I really think once he’s gone, I do think that will change a lot then,” he said. “If it doesn’t by year end, I think it will when he leaves.”
Asked what about Johnson has impressed Elliott the most since he joined Hendrick Motorsports as a teammate in the Cup Series in 2016, Elliott said, “I think he just exemplifies how you should go about your life really on and off the race track. I think he’s a great person. He has his off-the-track life figured out.
“He treats people the way they deserve to be treated. He’s just a class guy. I think he leads by example. I’ve enjoyed having somebody like that to look up to.”
When it comes to trying to dissect the reasons why Johnson doesn’t seem to get the respect some of the other sport’s most successful stars receive, Elliott finds it difficult pinpoint one reason.
“I don’t understand why. I don’t know if it’s just an era thing. On the same token, he was around in the mid-2000s when some other guys were, too, that I feel like get a lot of that recognition and names that you know,” Elliott said.
“I’ve never really understood. I do think it will be one of those things that once he’s gone people are going to be like, ‘Whoa!’ Maybe it’s just because he’s such a nice guy, that he hasn’t changed at all.
“He’s had that same even keel that he had when he came in in 2000 or 2001. Never had the big personality I guess to go along with all the success, which I think is great. I think that’s how it should be or how you should be. But maybe that’s why.”
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