History Will Repeat: Why 1996 Will Cost Jimmie Johnson Another Championship

CJ JacksonCorrespondent IJuly 26, 2009

JOLIET, IL - JULY 11: Mark Martin, driver of the #5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Chevrolet, races Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on July 11, 2009 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

I keep hearing how Jimmie Johnson is in line to make history and win his fourth consecutive championship, something no other championship driver has done, even though a few have come close—Gordon in 1995-1998 and Earnhardt who would've won five straight in 1990-1994 except he had a bad year in 1992 and wasn't even a threat.

Many believe that Johnson will accomplish what Earnhardt and Gordon could not.

I, however, believe he'll be close, but no cigar. I believe that it'll be Johnson beating Stewart, Gordon, and Newman, but will in the end finishing bride's maid and coming so close to winning that fourth one in a row.

I believe that it'll be a close margin of points, such as it was in 2004 when Jimmie lost the championship to Kurt Busch by just nine points, but i'll say it'll be like 15 points that separates Jimmie Johnson from winning his fourth straight.

So who is it that'll knock Johnson off the top spot after three years straight?

Well if you haven't guessed from the picture, no other than the old man himself, the resurrected Mark "The Kid" Martin.

Mark has been on such a tear this year, that even though Johnson is having a year like he has the past three years, I believe that Mark is just that much better. It might be only by a small margin, but I think if you look at this season, Mark in most races has outperformed Jimmie in performance. It's just luck has been good to Mark some, just as it was at Michigan, and it's bit him hard with bad luck, such as California earlier this year when he blew up running in the top five.

If you look at how significant a jump Mark has made from where at Bristol he was on the verge of falling out of the top 35, to where he is right now, in that if the Chase was to start right now, he'd be leading the points, then I have to say momentum has more than pushed Mark than Jimmie Johnson.

Although Jimmie and Chad Knaus are a hell of a combination, you can't hide the fact that with Alan Guftason, who I always believed was a underrated and very intelligent crew chief, and Mark Martin, there is a high level of respect and compliment each other. It reminds me of the chemistry of a Knaus/Johnson, Gordon/Evernham, Jarrett/Parrott, or Waltrip/Hammond, all who had a lot of success together and rode the relationship to championships.

Alan has always been a calm and collected crew chief and has the same persona and characteristics that Mark Martin has, and I believe that Alan is enjoying and enlarging his success far more than he could've ever dreamed with Kyle Busch, who many think is the most talented driver in the sport, although right now, i'd say Johnson has that argument on hold.

I tell you, I think you'll see a repeat of history.

The time, 13 years ago. The scenario, with the same organization, Hendrick Motorsports. It was the 1996 championship on the line. A future success, and mentor of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon had just won the 1995 championship—the youngest Cup champion in the history of the sport—and had just landed Hendrick Motorsports it's first Championship since it was founded in 1984.

A couple seasons earlier, Rick Hendrick had tapped a veteran driver who wanted a second chance on his racing career to drive Hendrick's prized ride, The Five Ride, with Kellogg's on board, and that seasoned veteran was Terry Labonte.

At the end of the 1996 season, at Atlanta, the championship was between two Hendrick cars, the No. 5 and the 24. Now, if I remember correctly, many had jumped on the bandwagon of the 24 after pulling the impossible in the previous season for Gordon to beat the Intimidator to become the youngest Champion, so a lot of people had their bets riding on the Dupont Chevy.

However, at the end of the day, it was that seasoned veteran who a lot had bet against that held up the 1996 Winston Cup Championship and beat the young gun by around 40 points. Granted, Hendrick was in a win/win situation, but to a lot of us fans that like the underdog, it was good to see the bandwagon fans and the experts who would've just backed the driver who won the previous championship, but in a sense, it was a upset, that sometimes is a great thing for the sport.

Now, who knew that the next two Gordon would win and that it would be Terry Labonte that prevented Gordon from going for the history that Johnson is trying to pull of this year, winning four championships in a row.

Now, I will say, I believe that Johnson when the history books are wrote, will have more championships and wins than Gordon, and, as i've stated I believe that when Johnson's career is over, he'll have five championships, but my prediction, and I strongly and seriously believe this, that Mark Martin will get his first championship in the same car Terry upset Gordon in and it will cost Johnson his fourth championship.

Many experts have Johnson to win his fourth, just as they had Gordon pegged to repeat in 1996, but I believe it's about time that the old seasoned veteran has his day to hold the championship, and I think Mark Martin will be repeating history again.

So enjoy kissing those bricks Jimmie Johnson, because Mark Martin will enjoy holding the Sprint Cup trophy at the end of the season. Your reign as champion is about to end.

My prediction: Mark Martin beats Jimmie Johnson by 15 points to win the 2009 Sprint Cup championship.