For Hendrick Motorsports, Championships are just another expectation

Jim BobCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2009

Even before Jimmie Johnson jumped out to a 90-point lead over the chase field at Lowe's Motor Speedway Saturday night, it became apparent that Rick Hendrick would win his fourth consecutive title as an owner.  The only question was, which Hendrick driver would it be.

After Saturday, it appears that Johnson could be that driver.  However, no one on the No. 48 Lowe's team would allow the engraver to start placing their name on the trophy for the fourth year in a row.

There is five races left, any anything can happen.  Especially at the next two tracks—Martinsville and Talladega—which are considered to be "wild card" races by many in the sport.

"We're only halfway through this thing," Johnson said.  "So much can happen.  Somebody at Martinsville can lose their brakes and clean you out.  With the double file restart there's going to be a lot of bumping and banging.

"I mean, it's a nice points lead, but there's no need for anybody to get too excited yet. We've got good tracks ahead for us, so from a team standpoint we're excited and optimistic, but at the same time there's a lot of danger out there and we've just got to be smart."

However, that 90-point lead reminds many of the domination that the team of Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus has had in the past three years.  Even though they are right in saying that "anything can happen" through the next five weeks, it seem as though nothing really happens to that team.  And, if it does, they still usually find a way to rebound for a top-ten finish.

Knaus made attempts to downplay the team's domination, saying that the team has been "fortunate over the course of the last couple years we haven't had a significant failure in the Chase, but it is very, very possible, and the potential is there every time you go on the racetrack."

The win Saturday was Johnson third win in the five chase races so far, after scoring three wins in the first 26 races of the season leading up to the chase.

With their domination, fans and media almost expect that a Hendrick team—namely the No. 48 team—will sit at the lead table for the Sprint Cup Series banquet at the end of the season.

When posed the question, of whether or not it is more of an expectation than a goal for one of his teams to win a championship, his answer wasn't without a little hesitation.

"When you start the year, you ... that doesn't sound ... I don't like to say it that way, but you want to win it (the championship), you think you can win it, but you know it's going to be a fight.  You folks (the media) and the fans expect it.  You write about it when we have the media tour.  And I'll tell you we're going to enjoy it while we can."

Meanwhile, Johnson appears poised to continue his trek towards a fourth consecutive title.  But for the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion, winning and domination is just him doing his thing.

"I'm just doing my thing," Johnson said.  "I think there's a lot of fans out there that are excited to see what this 48 car is doing, and a lot of people are happy and rooting for us to win a fourth.  The rest of them, oh, well."

Next week, Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet head to Martinsville—a track that's already saw them in it's victory lane earlier this year.