in the race when he collided with Greg Biffle,
as Johnson cruised to his fifth straight title.
In 2016, Johnson talked about how at
peace he was the week before Homestead.
How chill was he? On the Friday before the
big race, Johnson ran 10 miles in the
morning and then, between practice and
qualifying in the afternoon, went on a
30-mile bike ride with Matt Kenseth.
And in the final race, all three of his
rivals made key mistakes under pressure:
Logano and Edwards crashed together
with 10 laps to go, and Busch inexplicably
pitted during the last caution, putting
himself too deep in the field to win.
Jimmie Johnson, meanwhile, was
Superman in the clutch. Again.
Asked how Johnson could win so many
championships in the Chase era, and at a
time when the cars are all so equal, crew
chief Knaus minced no words.
“I hate to be this blunt, but it’s Jimmie
Johnson,” Knaus said. “He’s probably the
most underrated champion in this sport,
to be honest with you. He’s a fantastic
individual, an amazing racecar driver.
Most people in the situation we were just
in would crumble, and he didn’t even
waver. He knew what he needed to do. He
knew what the demands were on him at
With a surely untouchable (even by
Jimmie Johnson) 200 race wins at
NASCAR’s Cup level, including a record
seven Daytona 500 victories, plus those
seven championships, Richard Petty’s
stunning résumé justifies his epithet of
“The King.” Was the opposition in
Petty’s heyday as deep as it is now? No.
But racing the likes of David Pearson,
Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and
Benny Parsons week in, week out, his
success was richly deserved.
A tough-talking, hard-driving
megastar who did more than anybody
to take NASCAR beyond its roots in
Dixie, yet still resonated with a
blue-collar fanbase, “The Intimidator”
never let off the gas from hardscrabble beginnings to tragic ending
in 2001. Despite Earnhardt’s
unrivaled mastery of superspeedways,
that first and only Daytona 500 win
eluded him – taunted him – until 1998,
yet was all the sweeter for it.
1964, 1967, 1971, 1972,
1974, 1975, 1979
1980, 1986, 1987, 1990,
1991, 1993, 1994
Jimmie Johnson becomes just the
third member of NASCAR’s seven-
time champions’ club, joining...
1979: Petty celebrates his seventh, clinched
at the Ontario Motor Speedway, Calif., finale.
1994: Earnhardt took No. 7 with a win at
Rockingham, N.C., and two races to spare.
AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB
“I hate to be this blunt, but
it’s Jimmie Johnson. He’s
probably the most underrated
champion in this sport”
(LEFT) Count those
Johnson poses with
No. 7 and its six
symmetry wil come
with the addition of
No. 8 – a likely
prospect, given his
that point in time, and he made it happen.”
Says Hendrick of his star driver: “He’s
so focused and driven, and he’s like a
computer in the car when you listen to him
give feedback. He’s just so…the way he eats,
the way he exercises, everything is about
physical and mental fitness for the racecar.”
And now Johnson has those seven
championships, he’s still not slowing down.
“Now, I think the motivation turns into,
‘I’ve tied the greats of Richard and Dale
with seven, but I want to stand alone on
my own with eight,’” says Gordon. “I truly
believe he will get eight. He’ll go for eight,
and I don’t think he stops until he gets it.”
Some of the faces may have changed over the last 15 seasons,
but Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports crew,
headed by the indomitable Chad Knaus, has consistently supplied
its driver with title-contending cars, strategies and pit stops.