American racecar driver.
Johnson currently drives the #48 Lowe's car in the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. On September 29, 2002, Johnson took the lead in the Winston Cup points standings, displacing seasoned veterans Sterling Marlin and Mark Martin -- the first rookie ever to achieve this feat -- although he lost the lead when he failed to finish the following week at Talladega. Additionally, he is currently tied with Tony Stewart as the most successful NASCAR rookie ever, owing much to his mentor and team owner, Jeff Gordon. The remaining races of his rookie season will be very interesting for fans of Jimmie Johnson, as he still a leading contender for the Winston Cup and the Winston series "Rookie of the Year" title, although fellow rookie adept Ryan Newman will probably claim the latter title.
Born in 1975 and raised in El Cajon (Southern California near San Diego), Jimmie Johnson became interested in racing at a very young age. He started competing on motorcycles when he was four years old and switched to racing automobiles when he was fifteen.
At 22, Johnson participated in the American Speed Association's races, and became a full-time driver for the ASA in 1998. He raced in the #44 Pennzoil Monte Carlo for Herzog Motorsports that year and came in fourth in the points standing at the end of the season. The ASA named him Pat Schauer Memorial Rookie of the Year.
Herzog introduced Johnson to NASCAR's Busch series races in 2000. He drove the #92 Alltel Monte Carlo and finished 10th overall. He achieved his first NASCAR win in 2001 at the inaugural Busch series Chicagoland Speedway race. Continuing to improve, he finished the season in 8th place.
After impressing owners, fans, and competitors in Busch Grand Nationals racing, Johnson entered the big leagues in 2001, participating in three Winston Cup races. He entered the Winston Cup circuit full-time for the 2002 season, driving the #48 Lowe's Monte Carlo. He has won the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway and both the races at Dover International Speedway, the MBNA Platinum 400 and the MBNA All-American Heroes 400.
Whether you like racing or think it's some stupid redneck pastime, Jimmie Johnson is a name to know. He's going to be the Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan or Joe Montana of auto racing.
Addendum Sunday, November 19, 2006 6:30 PM Eastern: Jimmie Johnson has just won the 2006 Nextel Cup championship. See, I told you so.
Addendum Tuesday, November 19, 2008: Two years to the day after my last update, I should add that this weekend Jimmie Johnson won his third consecutive title in the twice-renamed NASCAR Sprint Cup series, tying the 30-year record for consecutive championships.
Addendum mid-November 2009: Four consecutive championships, records have been broken.