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Harvick: Johnson underappreciated as one of NASCAR’s all-time greats

Kevin Harvick invited Jimmie Johnson to be a guest on his weekly radio show this week. Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he explained his reasoning, saying he wanted a greater audience to appreciate Johnson’s greatness while his career was still active.

Johnson’s guest appearance came on this week’s edition of Harvick’s “Happy Hours” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“It was great because I feel like, in my opinion, Jimmie’s one of the most disrespected great drivers that have ever come through this garage. Jimmie Johnson’s just a good, old-fashioned great guy and helps people, and has done great things in the garage and in the race car, out of the race car, and I think sometimes we forget … a lot of people forget that he’s won seven championships and all the races that he’s won and all the great things that he’s done, and it’s not like he came from a rich daddy or a family that had a lot of money.

“I mean, he came from the bottom all the way to the top and worked hard, had a lot of success with it and won as many championships as Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, and I never feel like he’s on that pedestal next to those guys appropriately. Sometimes I feel like as a group, from a fan standpoint, I feel like you’re just letting it go by and not ever realizing that you’re watching one of the greatest careers that’s ever going to come through the garage.”

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Harvick said that he felt like with the fluid state of the NASCAR fan base, some reintroduction is sometimes necessary for newer fans who may not realize Johnson’s credentials as a future NASCAR Hall of Famer. That’s why, Harvick said, he chose to focus on asking about Johnson’s origins and interests.

“Once you hear the Jimmie Johnson story and how he got to where he is, a lot of people know what he’s done here, but it’s not like it was handed to him,” Harvick said. “So that’s always kind of our goal is to do something different, and I just feel like, I don’t want the fans to not realize what they’re watching with Jimmie, because of the fact that he has done so many great things and is such a great person, a really fun guy, and he always gets the knock for not being the super-fun, he’s the buttoned-up, tight-laced guy. That couldn’t be further from the truth than anybody could possibly understand.

“We only had 20 minutes, so it’s not easy to explain all those things in 20 minutes, but I feel like we touched on some of those things, but it’s always fun to hear those guys talk about stuff like that.”

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Johnson made an appearance Friday in the 1.54-mile track’s media center after Harvick’s availability. Though he didn’t know the context of Harvick’s remarks, Johnson said he appreciated Harvick’s kind words.

“I’ve had a great run, accomplished a lot of great things, more than I really ever imagined that I would,” Johnson said. “I feel like every driver has something that they probably deserve and something they don’t deserve along the way of progressing through this sport. I’ve had my good and my bad and it is what it is, and honestly I quit paying attention to a lot of the public opinion stuff years ago. It doesn’t do me any good. I’m just going to keep my head down and keep working. Some weekends, I think things go your way and you get the praises that you would hope to, and other weekends it doesn’t. It’s just kind of the evolution of the sport.”