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. Typhoon set to hit Japan on Sunday, putting GP schedule at risk

    Oct 2, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    © UBIMET © UBIMET

    Category four typhoon could force the race to be held on Saturday instead of Sunday.

  2. 2014 Japanese Grand Prix Preview

    Oct 2, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Previews Getty Images

    Umbrellas at the ready! This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix is going to be a rainy one.

  3. IMSA: Titles on the line at Petit Le Mans

    Oct 2, 2014, 9:03 AM EDT

    Joao Barbosa AP

    Titles on the line at the TUDOR Championship finale in Atlanta.

  4. IndyCar Driver Review: Graham Rahal

    Oct 2, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT

    NTT DATA Qualifying Day - Firestone 600 Getty Images

    Graham Rahal ends P19 after a tough season, but he was better than the stats would indicate.

  5. Merhi, Stevens get Suzuka FP1 outings with Caterham, Marussia

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:59 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Qualifying Getty Images

    Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens to run in FP1 at Suzuka.

  6. IndyCar Driver Review: Takuma Sato

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

    SatoPost Getty Images

    Results and statistics don’t tell the tale for Takuma Sato’s hard-luck 2014 IndyCar season.

  7. IndyCar Driver Review: Jack Hawksworth

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT

    HawkTOR AP

    Jack Hawksworth overachieved in his first Verizon IndyCar Series season.

  8. NASCAR AMERICA: Edwards and Kahne on rest of Chase format (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Cheez-It 355 At The Glen - Practice Getty Images

    Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne check in on the Contender round of the new Chase format.

  9. NASCAR AMERICA: Jimmie Johnson on “flying under the radar” (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Jimmie Johnson not a fan of the “under the radar” terminology.

  10. NASCAR Truck penalty for No. 20 team upheld

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    nascarlogo

    A P2 penalty issued to No. 20 NASCAR Truck team upheld after appeal.

  11. Caterham denies future is at risk despite goods being seized

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Caterham Getty Images

    Bailiffs seize goods at Leafield, but Caterham issues a statement saying that it is business as usual.

  12. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 pm ET — All 12 drivers in Chase Contenders Round

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT

    141001-NASCAR-AMERICA

    Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America goes in-depth with all 12 drivers in Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, also known as the Contenders Round.

  13. Report: Australian-owned team, driver and sponsor to debut in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    NCWTS logo

    While Marcos Ambrose is returning to his native Australia after this season, a new Australian-owned team is set to make its debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next season, complete with an Australian-born driver and Aussie primary sponsor.

  14. Bill Elliott makes awesome $4.2 million real estate deal

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    (Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Bill Elliott figured real estate would be a good investment many years ago, and did that belief ever pay off for the soon-to-be NASCAR Hall of Famer.

  15. Ryan Villopoto leaving American motocross, will race MXGP series for ‘final year of racing’

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Photo credit: Matt Rice/ProMotocross.com Photo credit: Matt Rice/ProMotocross.com

    Kawasaki officially announced that reigning supercross champion Ryan Villopoto will head to Europe next year to race the MXGP series. Davi Millsaps and Wil Hahn will replace him on the American Monster Energy Kawasaki team.

  16. Will Michael Waltrip survive Round 4 elimination on Dancing With The Stars?

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Dancing With The Stars) (Photo courtesy Dancing With The Stars)

    He’s reached the fourth round of Dancing With The Stars, but will NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip and partner Emma Slater make it to the fifth round?

  17. Jeff Gordon is now just 3 top-10 finishes from tying Mark Martin for second on all-time list

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    (AP Photo/John Raoux) AP

    Jeff Gordon is now just three top-10 finishes away from tying Mark Martin for second most top-10s in a career. And in an ironic twist, Gordon is still seeking his first pole at this Sunday’s race venue, Kansas Motor Speedway.

  18. Honda releases first image of F1 2015 engine, no driver announcement due at Suzuka

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    © Honda © Honda

    More details revealed ahead of Honda’s return to F1 in 2015 with McLaren.

  19. Veteran crew chief Mike Ford named to run NNS team effort for John Wes Townley

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:16 AM EDT

    (Jason Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Veteran NASCAR crew chief Mike Ford has joined Athenian Motorsports, the Nationwide Series team announced Wednesday.

Video from NASCAR America

Drivers discuss new Chase format
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1578)
  2. K. Harvick (1481)
  3. K. Busch (1337)
  4. J. Coulter (1196)
  5. R. Blaney (1149)