CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There was little recognition outside the racing world when Jimmie Johnson won his first NASCAR championship.
Same with his second, and again with his third.
But four straight championships? That's a different story.
Johnson, the first driver in NASCAR history to win four consecutive titles, earned mainstream recognition Monday when he was honored as the Male Athlete of the Year by members of The Associated Press.
Johnson received 42 votes from editors at U.S. newspapers which are members of the AP. Tennis star Roger Federer (30 votes) and Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt (29) were the only other athletes with totals in the double- digits.
Although Tiger Woods was named Athlete of the Decade, the golfer received only nine votes for Athlete of the Year. He was tied with NBA star Kobe Bryant and slugger Albert Pujols in fourth place. Woods, who was ranked No. 1 in his sport but failed to win one of golf's majors this season, was never a top contender — even before the sex scandal that unraveled his personal life following a Nov. 27 traffic accident.