According to the USPS, I now live in El Cajon CA, hometown of Jimmie Johnson, 2-time winner of the Daytona 500 as well as 7-time champion of the NASCAR Cup Series.
When I first started exploring El Cajon after moving out here, I discovered Jimmie Johnson Drive. It’s an extraordinarily busy main thoroughfare so I wasn’t able to get this picture until yesterday when I was on foot nearby after all the morning rush-hour traffic had dissipated and the traffic signals at both intersections were cooperating.
Johnson’s rookie year was 1998, and, yes, he did win Rookie of the Year. Arguably, Jimmie Johnson’s best year was 2006 when he won the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR All-Star Race, the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, and his first Driver of the Year.
His first big year in terms of wins was 2003 when he won the NASCAR All-Star Race and the first of three consecutive Coca-Cola 600 races. He also came in third at the Daytona 500, on February 16, for which he won $717,526. His total earnings for 2003 were $7,745,530.
For the rest of the story, though, we need to go back to 2002 when he earned $3,788,268. That’s a lot of money, and Johnson was living in a modest El Cajon home, which he decided to sell.
In early 2003 I, a home inspector at the time, got a call from prospective Clients, and agreed to do their home inspection for them. Whenever I scheduled a home inspection, I would always look up the public records to see how old the home was and who the owners were. The age would tell me a lot about the systems I would be inspecting, and knowing the owner’s name would allow me to address the owner properly (Mr., Mr. & Mrs., Miss, Dr.) if the owner happened to be there.
The owner in this case was Jimmie Johnson. Well, Jimmie and Johnson are somewhat common names, so no big deal. However, when I got to the house, there was a race car in the garage, being worked on, and racing trophies everywhere inside. That’s when I knew it was the one and only Jimmie Johnson.
I have been interested in racing ever since my second semester at Texas A&M University in Spring 1974. Terry LaBonte was one of my rampmates in Puryear Hall (sadly, Puryear and its mirror sister, Law, were demolished in 1997). Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, also got into racing, and both were extraordinarily successful. Terry & Bobby were from Corpus Christi, Texas, and since I was from Kingsville, 40 miles farther south towards the Mexico border, I had something in common with them. Our high schools were rivals.
Although Terry was enrolled at Texas A&M University, he wasn’t there much. He went home every weekend, or to Houston, to race in the local circuits there. Our rampmates didn’t understand why he was even at Texas A&M because he had no interest in anything that didn’t have something to do with cars and racing. Ultimately he did drop out of college and went full time on the racing circuit.
Terry’s first race as a professional was the 1978 Southern 500 (where he came in fourth and won $9,875) and his first win was the 1980 Southern 500. He won $222,501 in 1980. In comparison, I made something like $40,000 in 1980, and I had a college degree….