As we prepare for the final race of this 2011 NASCAR season, we must also prepare to say goodbye to the current champion, Jimmie Johnson. 

For the first time in five years he will not hoist the Sprint Cup at the end of the season. I know many people are happy about this but I for one have mixed emotions.  While Jimmie is not my favorite driver, he has given me many moments over these five years to make me like him.

 None more than when he joined Twitter this year and proved to be anything but “vanilla.”  I remember the Martinsville race where he and Jeff Gordon were beating and banging on each other over the final laps and wasn’t intimated by Gordon.  Another special moment was when he picked up the win at Martinsville in 2009, twenty five years after the organization’s first win.

 I like that he over his five championship seasons he proved the doubters wrong, from he can’t win with a broken wrist to  him having a child will distract him.  Many people have said all of his success is because of Chad Knaus, his crew chief.  But that man has talent because a crew chief can only take a driver so far, he can’t get in the car and drive it for you.

So it’s time to give credit where credit is due, Johnson is one of the best to drive a race car.  Now, to me, it’s silly to try and compare drivers from different eras because there are so many different variables.  But I am certain of one thing, I don’t think there will ever be another five time in a row NASCAR Champion.

To put in perspective what Johnson has accomplished in the past five years in NASCAR, I looked at the champions in the other major “stick and ball” sports. In those leagues during the same time period no other team has had a three time repeater much less a five time. 

Only the NBA and MLS have come close with back to back champions.

 So while we celebrate the crowning of a new champion let’s toast the outgoing one. Here’s to you Jimmie Johnson. It was a great ride.