ESPN is Tabbing Johnson as First Athlete to Guest Host Sports Center

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, celebrates in Champions Victory Lane after winning the series championship following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17, 2013  Photo - Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, celebrates in Champions Victory Lane after winning the series championship after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17, 2013
Photo – Getty Images

Six-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson to become first athlete to guest host ESPN’s Sports Center

With a competing network analyst, proclaiming Jimmie Johnson is “absolutely not an athlete,” apparently ESPN along with the NASCAR world disagrees with that assessment. ESPN is putting together a winning recipe that is making history within the sports world.

Johnson is joining regular anchors, John Anderson and Lindsay Czarniak for the 6pm ET show, SportsCenter on Tuesday, Nov 19 on ESPN.

Tuesday night’s recipe is simple, yet untested. Take one part Stuart Scott, one part Billy Crystal. Add a handful of Chris Berman, and a pinch of Ken Jeong. The result: Television history, as six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson becomes the first athlete to guest host ESPN’s flagship news and information program, SportsCenter.

Crystal and Jeong are the only other celebrity guest hosts of SportsCenter in the show’s 34-year history. Crystal was first in 2012 and Jeong guest hosted earlier this month on Nov 1st.

Johnson wrapped up his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in 12 full seasons this past Sunday. He’s been a guest on SportsCenter many times during his racing career both in-studio and via satelitte, but always as a newsmaker. Johnson also appeared in a humorous and memorable “This is SportsCenter” commercial in which he used a pickaxe to remove speed bumps in the ESPN parking lot.

But this time the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Lowe’s machine will perform all the duties of a SportsCenter host, including presenting news and highlights and conducting interviews from around the world of sports. And just like SportsCenter veterans Scott and Berman, and every other anchor who has sat behind the desk, Johnson will spend the day Tuesday preparing for his guest hosting responsibilities.

“I don’t know if SportsCenter knows what they are getting themselves into,” Johnson joked. “It’s probably a good thing I’m there pretty much all day preparing. I’ve got some tough shoes to fill with Billy Crystal and Ken Jeong but I’ve met most of the anchors and I am really looking forward to becoming the first athlete to ever guest host SportsCenter.”

Since its début on ESPN’s launch day of Sept 7, 1979, SportsCenter has aired more episodes than any television show in US history, reaching the 50,000-episode mark in 2012.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to change it up and give SportsCenter viewers a different take on the day’s news, have some fun and do some memorable television,” said Jack Obringer, SportsCenter senior coordinating producer.” And having a six-time champion like Jimmie Johnson on your set is pretty cool.”

Fans can join in the conversation using the hashtag #JimmieOnSC.on Twitter.

In addition to his SportsCenter guest hosting duties, Johnson is also making appearances on Late Show with David Letterman tonight and LIVE with Kelly and Michael tomorrow morning to talk about winning his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.

As for the competing network analyst who thinks Johnson is “absolutely not an athlete,” he’s entitled to his opinion, and he’s even entitled to continue to hide his head in the sand and stand by what he says. But if he truly want consideration as a knowledgable sports analyst, it would serve him well to become more informed before speaking his opinions. It’s clear that those informed about Jimmie Johnson and the physical stamina needed as a NASCAR driver, consider Johnson an élite athlete among athletes, as he continues making history across the sports world.

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