In racing, there are three kinds of champions. The first one is obvious; it’s the driver who hoists the Cup at season’s end after they out-perform their adversaries on the track. Then there are the ones that were born champions but hold no such trophies. The ones of impeccable character who only speak when they have something say. They are humble, tenacious, self-motivated and are incapable of comprehending the words, “it can’t be done.” Then we have the racers that are both. Jimmie Johnson is among that elite contingent.
Jimmie Johnson is now a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion which is a feat accomplished only by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt until now. That team has gone into the final race of the season with a mathematical shot at winning the championship nearly every season since 2004 with the exception of 2011. Over the years, he’s battled and defeated great drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Mark Martin in his pursuit of six championships.
Why Is The No.48 Team So Good?
When you take one of the most talented drivers out there, put him in the best equipment there is and combine that with a genius like Chad Knaus, magical things are going to happen. This is the era of the No.48 and in my eyes; it’s the greatest race team to ever exist in the history of NASCAR. Rick Hendrick doesn’t need to give pep talks to his guys as motivation. Hendrick Motorsports employees know what is expected of them and they always deliver.
Jimmie has the car control, the mental fortitude, the natural talent to wheel the fastest cars in the field to the max of their capabilities and most crucially, he thrives when the pressure is applied. Chad Knaus is an innovator that takes the fastest and most durable cars in the field and somehow, makes them go even faster. You can put their backs against a wall, throw as much adversity as you want their way and they will still find a way to emerge victorious. That is why this group is always at or near the top every single year. They are the complete package. There is no Achilles Heel.
What Does Title No.6 Mean?
When this team won a 5th straight, that was a remarkable accomplishment but there is something about winning a 6th that takes them to whole new level. Jimmie is plus two titles over any other driver in history besides Petty and Earnhardt who hold a coveted 7th. Less than a decade ago, he didn’t even have a single championship to his credit and to think that Jimmie Johnson is just one more stellar year away from matching those two immortals of stock car racing is nearly incomprehensible to me. The No.48 team can certainly be beat, they are human believe it or not but take away the rear gear failure at Homestead in 2012, the wreck they had there in 2005 and we may be looking at an eight-time champion right now.
Impact On NASCAR
For NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson winning yet another championship is a double-edged sword. It’s great because Jimmie is a perfect representative for the sport. He is a family man, a class act, articulate, engages with the fans on social media and never ruffles any feathers. Now here’s why it’s a double-edged sword. Johnson’s dominance has led a lot of fans to greatly dislike him. (That’s the nice way of putting it) In fact, I read countless tweets from people saying that they were not going to watch the season finale just because he was most likely going to win the title.
Some of his detractors have quit watching the sport altogether and then there are others who come up with eccentric theories in an attempt to deny the incontrovertible fact that he is one of best drivers of all-time. Last year, NASCAR’s champion was the highly outspoken and sometimes brash, Brad Keselowski. It’s obvious that someone stirring the pot all the time and giving interviews to SportsCenter while drunk is going to get more eyeballs turned our way compared to a driver such as 6-time (gotta get used to saying that sooner than later) who is never embroiled in any controversies.
What The Future Holds
Chad Knaus issued an ominous warning Sunday night when he said that the No.48 team isn’t even close to their full potential yet. Cue the audible gulp from the racing community. When will this dynasty finally come to an end? At seven? Maybe eight? Heck, could they even reach 10? I see no team, no driver that is capable of taking this team down for good. The thing that will permanently end the reign of Jimmie Johnson will most likely be something you can’t fight back against and that’s time. He’s 37 years old and considering how fit Jimmie is, he could have well over ten more years left in him although I don’t see 42 year old Chad Knaus sticking around that long. Keep in mind that he’s won six titles and sixty-six races in eight years when thinking about how many he’s got left behind the wheel.
One day, Jimmie Johnson will be inducted into the NASCAR HOF and people will watch old videos of him in absolute awe of what he accomplished. He will be labeled a legend and revered by all. Fans will want to be edified about his career and wish they could have been there in person to witness it. He will be idolized, immortalized and no longer criticized. That day is not here yet though.
We are witnessing history right now with Jimmie Johnson. You don’t have to like it but you better respect it.