Jimmie Johnson’s visibility has grown since Homestead-Miami

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson poses with the 2016 NASCAR Championship trophy at the House of Blues Foundation Room inside Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino during NASCAR Champion's Week on November 30, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson poses with the 2016 NASCAR Championship trophy at the House of Blues Foundation Room inside Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino during NASCAR Champion's Week on November 30, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Getty Images)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson poses with the 2016 NASCAR Championship trophy at the House of Blues Foundation Room inside Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino during NASCAR Champion’s Week on November 30, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – If Jimmie Johnson’s stature as an athlete has grown since he won a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he hasn’t noticed a difference in the way he has been perceived.

But as far as recognition goes, that’s an entirely different matter.

“I feel like I’ve been recognized far more,” Johnson told the NASCAR Wire Service after the Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at the Wynn Las Vegas. “Maybe it’s because of the championship and people going out of their way to be friendly and congratulate me…

“In two weeks’ time, I feel like there’s been a change in awareness of who I am, which is pretty amazing.”

A change in attitude toward the Hendrick Motorsports driver started even before the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami. As Johnson rode around the track and waved to fans during pre-race ceremonies, he noticed a preponderance of seven-finger salutes in the grandstands—highlighting the number of championships he ultimately achieved.

“I’m very aware of (Dale) Earnhardt’s quote from way back, ‘As long as they’re making noise, you’re doing something right. I’ve said that in my mind many times.”

In less than three months, Johnson will begin his quest for an unprecedented eighth championship, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop enjoying No. 7.

“I’ll enjoy this forever,” he said. “Even if ‘8’ happens—and even if it doesn’t—this is such a big moment for me.”

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