With five more weeks until the 2009 NASCAR Sprint cup champion is crowned, the drivers from Hendrick Motorsports who are in the chase have made their presence felt, all except for one.
Even though the supporting cast has already shown up, but still the only one missing is the guest of honor.
And it wouldn’t be hard to make a strong case saying that Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Lowe’s No. 48 Chevrolet, could easily fill that role.
Johnson, who is leading the chase with three wins and a 135 point lead over four time champion Jeff Gordon, is on the verge of making history if he can win his fourth championship in a row.
But in all reality, even though Gordon is the only HMS driver that has yet to reach victory lane during this season’s chase, the honor should still remain with the sports most influential driver of our time.
Gordon who enters this weekends race at Martinsville with seven wins in 33 starts, could easily put himself back within striking distance of getting his fifth career championship with a win this weekend.
Momentum and confidence are only two of the many key factors if NASCAR’s most winningest active driver expects to get past his HMS teammate, and put up a challenge during these last five races.
“I am excited. When we come to Martinsville, this is a track we have a lot of confidence in and look forward to getting out there and start working on the balance of our race car.”
Gordon also added that, “I feel like we have momentum right now and we want to keep pushing forward with that momentum and continue to put good, solid finishes in and hopefully start putting some wins together.
This is a track where we can do that.” Gordon who won his four championships within a seven year time span, knew that it was only possible because of the relationship that he had with his then crew chief Ray Evernham.
Now, when looking at the dominance that Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus have been displaying, the similarities are almost exact because of the way that the two of them communicate.
Not only do the two of them have good communication, but they also respect what each other has to say during the course of the race weekend. Gordon elaborated on the connection that he has seen between the Johnson-Knaus team, while comparing them to his own experience back in the late 90’s.
“It takes a total team to win like they have and like we did in the mid-90’s and the championships.
But that driver-crew chief relationship is crucial to have common respect. To push one another and then also just to be on the same page when it comes to communicating.”
“I feel like there are certain relationships that just click right away. Mine and Ray was certainly one of those and it seems to me as if is what you have with Jimmie and Chad as well, they clicked right away,” added Gordon.
This weekend’s race will be very pivotal if Gordon expects to keep his hopes alive, of winning his fifth championship.
Destiny may not be on his side, but he has always found a way to keep it within his grasp.
2007 was the last time that Gordon could feel the championship in his hands, but it was Johnson who would win the last four of five races, literally stripping it out of his bosses hands.
Gordon is hungry for his fifth, but is he hungry enough to pull a Dale Earnhardt Sr. and rattle a few cages to get it?
“Rattling somebody’s cage doesn’t necessarily mean you have to knock them out of the way or put them in the wall or anything like that, and that was Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s style of just going and using the bumper a little more maybe than what you see these days.”
“That has never been my style. It just hasn’t. I race guys hard. I race guys clean and I race them how they race me. I think you do have to rattle their cage, but to me, the way you have to rattle their cage is you have to out run them; you have to show what kind of team you are.”