CONCORD, N.C. – This Sunday, the New England Patriots will take on the Philadelphia Eagles with a championship on the line in Super Bowl LII.
The Patriots are once again led by quarterback Tom Brady, who enters the game as one of only two players in NFL history to have won five Super Bowl rings.
As a fellow championship-winning athlete over 40 years old, Jimmie Johnson has heard comparisons between himself and the veteran quarterback for a while. And Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick has spotted plenty of similarities himself.
“I look at Jimmie and Tom Brady as a lot alike,” Hendrick said. “You don’t hear Jimmie talk about, he’s the best driver. You never hear Jimmie take any credit for his talent. He always pushes it to the team.
“He’s got this burning desire and he’s got a commitment of whatever it takes – and it’s not just words, it’s actions. I’ll eat right, I’ll exercise, I’ll do this, I will block everything out of my mind, I will be here, I will take coaching. He’ll do whatever, and that’s all you can ask of a guy. When he’s got talent and he’s got that kind of commitment, he’s going to be hard to stop.”
Over time, Johnson said watching Brady and the Patriots’ success while he and the No. 48 team continued to win “opened my mind to that comparison.” He even expanded the parallel to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus.
“I think that Chad and Belichick have some commonalities, and so do Tom and I,” he said. “Being able to deliver when times are tough, those make-or-break moments. The experience, for athletes over 40, really serves an athlete well.”
Johnson won his first championship in 2006, part of a streak of five consecutive titles that wasn’t broken until the 2011 season. In 2013, he was back on top as the champion, and in 2016 he tied the all-time record by capturing his seventh NASCAR Cup Series title.
Brady captured his first Super Bowl title in 2004, part of a stretch of three title wins in four years for the Patriots. It’s a feat Brady and his team could match again this Sunday as the winners of 2015’s Super Bowl XLIX and last year’s Super Bowl LI. That would put the quarterback’s total at six, one behind Johnson.
Seeing a fellow 40-something athlete continue to succeed at such a high level has only reminded Johnson what an advantage experience can be.
“I've not met Tom, but we do have mutual friends,” the driver said. “His commitment to getting better every year sounds very familiar. It's something I've done through this offseason, just trying to figure out how I can be a better driver of this 48 car, looking at everything and anything that I can do.” “I feel very lucky to be in a sport that I can continue my career and still have that experience on my side.”