Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have been the big dogs of NASCAR for quite some time. Both are good friends and have had their fair share of run-ins on the track at the same time. Both Gordon and Johnson are the top two active drivers in Sprint Cup career wins. Looking back on their careers, who would you rather have in their prime?
When Gordon dominated in the 90s, it took the sport by storm. Gordon won at least 10 races in three consecutive seasons from 1996 through 1998. Gordon totaled 33 wins in those three years with two Cup series championships. For the most part, there wasn’t a track on the circuit where he didn’t dominate or at least have a good showing. Over the course of Gordon’s career, he has shown versatility to win at any track – that is unprecedented in NASCAR history. Look no further than Gordon’s nine wins on road courses, which is the most all time.
People got tired of Gordon winning in his dominant years, and some still are, even though he hasn’t won as much as he used to. But you can’t help but think that Gordon created his own clone in Johnson when Gordon decided to take Johnson under his wings at Hendrick Motorsports before Johnson became a full-time teammate of Gordon’s in 2002. Johnson certainly wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with someone he looked up to in his childhood, as he had the No. 24 car in his room. “The only die-cast car I bought as a kid and was sitting on the headboard in my room [was Gordon's No. 24 car],” said Johnson via azcentral.com.
Johnson, even though Gordon is still part owner of the No. 48 team, is creating his own legacy. Johnson is the first driver in NASCAR history to win five consecutive championships and is looking towards his sixth this season with four regular season wins already on his resume this year. Johnson, like Gordon, has already gotten to the point where many are tired of him winning. Don’t expect Johnson to care anytime soon.
When Johnson knows a track and works well on it, he won’t be beaten; not in this day in age. Dover, Martinsville and Charlotte might as well be stapled on his back with at least six wins in each of those tracks. In Johnson’s 13 seasons, he already has 64 wins. He needs 23 more wins to match Gordon for third all time.
But out of Johnson’s 64 wins, 10 of them came in only one year. Johnson’s best stretch of wins over a three-year span came from 2007 through 2009 when he won 24 races. Compare that to Gordon as noted earlier, who won 33 races in a three-year span.
The possibility of Johnson having a better career than Gordon would be fitting considering their car numbers. Gordon notoriously drives the 24 car, as well as Johnson who drives the 48 car. Johnson could end up being double the trouble of his idol.
If you are going by championships, Johnson would get the nod. If you are going by wins, Gordon has the edge. The comparison isn’t easy for a simple answer due to the fact that they are teammates and some of the things Johnson learned, he learned from Gordon. It’s cool to see tracks like Martinsville where they both mirror each other because you can tell both have fed off one another.
With all of that being said, Johnson may not have the peak value in terms of wins that Gordon had in his prime, but Johnson has the sustainability in winning that Gordon has lacked in recent years. If the trend continues, Johnson will pass Gordon for third all time in wins.
If that were to happen, I don’t think Gordon would be too upset. The competitor in him would be, but given the fact that Gordon still owns part of the No. 48 team, more money will be in his pockets as Gordon is NASCAR’s all-time earner with at least $129 million according to espn.com.