Skip to content

NASCAR immortality now in reach for Jimmie Johnson

Nov 18, 2013, 1:03 AM EST

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. F1 2015 team preview: Williams Martini Racing

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:00 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi Getty Images

    Can Massa and Bottas pick up where they left off at the end of 2014?

  2. Manor passes final crash tests ahead of Australian GP

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:07 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS Getty Images

    Team now all set to race in Australia on March 15 after passing the FIA crash tests.

  3. Formula E: Scott Speed in at Andretti for Miami ePrix

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    Bojangles' Southern 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Add another American to the Formula E roster for 2015 as Speed replaces Marco Andretti for the first of two home races.

  4. Reports: Giedo van der Garde steps up legal action against Sauber F1 Team

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EST

    Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Dutch driver reportedly seeking an urgent court order that would get him on the grid for the upcoming Australian Grand Prix.

  5. Ecclestone: Decision on German GP due this weekend

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany Getty Images

    With neither Hockenheim nor the Nurburgring prepared to host the race in 2015, the outlook is bleak for a German Grand Prix.

  6. IndyCar: Arrow Electronics to sponsor Hinchcliffe; number changes to 5

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    New sponsor, new number (again) for Hinchcliffe’s 2015 IndyCar campaign.

  7. Honda’s IndyCar aero kit launch plan comes into focus

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:14 PM EST

    Honda Indy Toronto - Day 1 Getty Images

    Honda hints at more about its aero kits, while tossing out two dates of note.

  8. PWC: 2015 driver/team rundown, GTS

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    WC

    Look through the Pirelli World Challenge field continues with a look at GTS.

  9. F1 2015 team preview: Red Bull Racing

    Mar 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    Ricciardo Kvyat 43 Getty Images

    Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat look to lead the team in the post-Vettel era.

  10. Justin Wilson has first ride of 2015 confirmed, back with Shank at Sebring

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:40 PM EST

    GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma - Day 1 Getty Images

    Justin Wilson returns to Michael Shank Racing for Sebring one-off.

  11. Manor Marussia F1 confirms trip to Melbourne

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:09 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Manor Marussia F1 to make trip to Melbourne after all.

  12. Agag: Formula E off to “incredible start” heading into U.S. swing

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:15 AM EST

    Agag2 Getty Images

    FIA Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag outlines goals for upcoming two U.S. races, and recaps the first four thus far.

  13. Pirelli confirms tire choice for first four Grands Prix

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:51 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Previews Getty Images

    Soft and medium the main choice for Pirelli in three of first four Grands Prix.

  14. Marciello confirms FP1 outing for Sauber in Malaysia

    Mar 4, 2015, 8:14 AM EST

    MarcielloAD1 Getty Images

    Raffaele Marciello set for Malaysia FP1 appearance at Sauber.

  15. PWC: 2015 driver/team rundown, GT, GTA, GT Cup

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    WC

    One to two sentence bullet point rundown on the PWC GT, GTA, GT Cup field heading into COTA and the 2015 season.

  16. Pippa Mann to serve as a Team Captain in Komen Central Indiana Race for the Cure

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EST

    Photo: Susan G. Komen Central Indiana Affiliate Photo: Susan G. Komen Central Indiana Affiliate

    Pippa’s Pink Posse to feature prominently in Komen Race for the Cure, for Central Indiana Affiliate.

  17. F1 2015 team preview: Mercedes

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    F1 Testing In Jerez - Day One Getty Images

    It’s the race to repeat in 2015, but will it be Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg who takes the title?

  18. McLaren’s already difficult offseason unaided by its handling of Alonso story

    Mar 3, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    McLaren-Honda Announces New Driver Line-Up For 2015 Getty Images

    Fernando Alonso’s accident in testing has raised way more questions than answers.