Skip to content

NASCAR immortality now in reach for Jimmie Johnson

Nov 18, 2013, 1:03 AM EDT

Ford EcoBoost 400 Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson couldn’t be blamed for wanting to truly savor his sixth Sprint Cup championship on Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He wanted to enjoy it for what it was, and not simply as another stepping stone toward seven-time Cup champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

But he also seemed to know that the debate of ‘greatest NASCAR driver ever’ that has centered for several decades around The King and The Intimidator will intensify further now that he’s made his way into it.

“I have six, and we will see if I get seven,” he said after winning Title No. 6 by 19 points over Matt Kenseth via a ninth-place finish in the season-ending Ford Ecoboost 400.

“Time will tell. I think we need to save the argument until I hang up the helmet – then it’s worth the argument. If people want to argue and fight about it right now, then they can. But let’s wait until I hang up the helmet before we start thinking about this.”

Those words will surely not be heeded by the sport’s diehards, who now must consider Johnson among the greatest stock car drivers of all time.

He continues to thrive in one of, if not the most competitive age in NASCAR history – constantly setting the bar higher and higher. And this dominance seems to have no end in sight.

Johnson would appear to have at least a good decade still ahead of him in the cockpit and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team, led by crew chief extraordinaire Chad Knaus, remains the model of consistency even as its core has changed considerably.

“We’ve taken a group of new individuals, new engineers, mechanics, pit crew members; they’ve all evolved into a pretty spectacular team,” Knaus said. “I don’t think we’re even close to the potential of the team yet. That’s exciting for me.”

How heart-breaking, soul-crushing, and utterly deflating must those words mean to those forced to battle Johnson every week – not to mention those NASCAR fans who feel Johnson is simply benefiting from being part of the best team in the garage?

For his part, Knaus credited team owner Rick Hendrick for giving Johnson and the team all the resources they need to contend at every race. But that doesn’t take away from Johnson’s pure talent.

“He can do things with a race car that most mortals can’t,” Knaus said. “He’s very into what it is we’re doing. He’s very studious, very intuitive of what’s happening around him, what’s going on when we’re testing or racing. He feeds us great information.

“He’s pretty spectacular. I mean, he really, really is.”

Indeed, he is. But how much more spectacular can he become? Let’s face facts: From this point forward, Johnson will be expected to eclipse both Petty and Earnhardt.

The pieces appear to be in place for an assault on the record books – a driver who is physically and mentally on top, a crew chief that pays a tremendous level of attention to the details, and a team that will only grow stronger over time.

All of them bonded by the hunger to win.

“I think we just are very competitive,” said Hendrick, now an 11-time Sprint Cup owner’s champion. “When we show up, we want to do the best we can.¬† Everybody in every department, they push each other to go to the next level.”

That’s where the No. 48 went in the Chase. Going into the post-season, Johnson suffered four consecutive finishes outside the Top 25 – 40th at Michigan, 36th at Bristol, 28th at Atlanta, and 40th in the regular season finale at Richmond.

But in the final 10 races, Johnson scored two wins, seven Top-5s and nine Top-10s. The average finish? 5.1.

“I can look back on a few tracks and think we could have had a few more points, but it really was a strong 10 weeks,” Johnson said of finishing the season with a flourish. “Last year, we had eight great weeks, didn’t come up with it. [This year,] Matt had nine.

“You have to have 10 great weeks to be the champion and we got it done this year.”

“We got it done this year.”

How many times do you think we’ll hear Johnson say that again before his career ends and, according to him, it’ll be time to have the argument over who is the greatest NASCAR driver ever? By then, there could be no argument at all.

Richard, Dale…You have company coming.

Latest Posts
  1. Greg Ives to become crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. next season

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:39 PM EDT

    GregIvesCrop Getty Images

    Ives currently serves as crew chief for Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott and also worked as a race engineer for Jimmie Johnson during his run of five Sprint Cup titles from 2006-2010.

  2. Gordon’s crew chief: 24 team more confident after Brickyard win

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT

    Sprint All-Star Race - Practice Getty Images

    In addition to talking about the meaning of Sunday’s win at Indy, Alan Gustafson touches on the penalties against fellow crew chief Darian Grubb and Joe Gibbs Racing.

  3. Columbus Blue Jackets’ James Wisniewski, Jared Boll named Mid-Ohio grand marshals

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    BlueJacketsGMs Getty Images

    Pair of Blue Jackets players to give the command for Honda Indy 200 this weekend.

  4. Better mindset, form for Briscoe, CGR heading into final month of 2014

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Briscoe072914 Getty Images

    Perhaps you haven’t noticed the uptick in form of Ryan Briscoe and the NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing team over the last couple months. Here’s a recap…

  5. MRTI: Jam-packed weekend for all three ladder series on tap at Mid-Ohio

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    MazdaRoadToIndy

    Seven races on tap for Indy Lights (2), Pro Mazda (2) and USF2000 (3) in critical Mid-Ohio weekend.

  6. Ten with Townsend: Toronto debrief

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    TorontoLeadPts Getty Images

    Insights and observations from NBCSN’s Townsend Bell after the pair of Toronto races, heading into Mid-Ohio.

  7. NASCAR AMERICA: Tuesday Round-Up (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    The impact of the Jeff Gordon Era; a family affair at Indy for the Dillons; thoughts on the Homestead tire test in August.

  8. JGR’s Brickyard penalties in line with similar ’08 penalty for Edwards, Roush

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT

    Denny Hamlin AP

    Carl Edwards, Jack Roush and crew chief Bob Osborne were severely penalized for a missing oil tank container lid after Edwards’ win at Las Vegas six years ago.

  9. Denny Hamlin’s team hit with big penalties after Brickyard infraction

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT

    Pocono 400 - Practice Getty Images

    No. 11 crew chief Darian Grubb suspended for six races, fined $125,000; No. 11 car chief Wesley Sherrill suspended for six races; Denny Hamlin loses 75 championship points, but still in position to make the Chase.

  10. High 5: Chip Ganassi Racing’s win streak at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Honda Indy 200 Getty Images

    A look back at Ganassi’s half-decade of dominance at the old-school road course in the Ohio countryside.

  11. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    Coming up today: The Top 5 wins of Jeff Gordon’s career; “Scan All 43″ for the Brickyard 400; reaction to Ty Dillon’s Nationwide win at Indianapolis.

  12. NASCAR AMERICA Minute: Where is Jeff Gordon among NASCAR’s greats? (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 Getty Images

    Richard Petty and David Pearson were joined on Sunday by Jeff Gordon as the only Sprint Cup drivers to win at least 90 races at NASCAR’s top level.

  13. Susan G. Komen honors Pippa Mann as its rookie-of-the-year; Mann also auctions helmet

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    PippaKomenAward

    Between a few days in Texas and auctioning off her race worn Indianapolis 500 helmet, it’s been a busy couple of weeks for Pippa Mann and the Susan G. Komen organization.

  14. Chase-eligible teams – but not drivers – allowed at Homestead tire test

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT

    Advocare 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Chase-eligible teams will have to send a driver not qualified for the post-season to an Aug. 26 tire test at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

  15. IndyCar flashback: Looking at telemetry from Robby Gordon at Mid-Ohio, 1994 (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    RobbyDakar AP

    IndyCar heads to Mid-Ohio this week. Here’s how telemetry readings from the track looked 20 years ago.

  16. Caterham, ex-employees to pursue legal action against each other

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Qualifying Getty Images

    After a group of laid-off employees from Caterham announced their intent to pursue legal action against the team’s new owners, Caterham has said they’ll push for a lawsuit against the ex-employees over “gross misrepresentation of the facts.”

  17. Q&A: Kevin Healy on Milwaukee IndyFest activation heading into Wisconsin State Fair

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Milwaukee IndyFest 225 - Day 2 Getty Images

    MotorSportsTalk catches up with Milwaukee IndyFest general manager Kevin Healy of Andretti Sports Marketing for a primer on the level of IndyFest promotion you’ll see at the Wisconsin State Fair, which starts Thursday.

  18. Red Bull’s Horner: “We’ve overachieved in many respects”

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Christian Horner AP

    It’s been a character-building season for the defending World Champions, but things are looking up for Red Bull going into the summer break.

  19. PWC: Charity efforts and comebacks afoot for Mid-Ohio round

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    WC

    Two charity cars and three comeback efforts highlight the Pirelli World Challenge weekend at Mid-Ohio.

  20. IndyCar: Hawksworth on the doorstep of breakthrough with BHA

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    HawkMidO Getty Images

    English rookie Jack Hawksworth has impressed more often than not during his first IndyCar season, and could bag his first win before the year’s out.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

More from NASCAR America

It's the Jeff Gordon era

Featured video

Inside the Hungarian GP
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. D. Hamlin (1163)
  2. J. McMurray (1086)
  3. A. Almirola (941)
  4. T. Bodine (919)
  5. K. Busch (851)