There has been one big question on everyone’s mind over the last four years in NASCAR: when will Jimmie Johnson’s dominance end?
The answer has yet to be seen, and the fact that he’s not getting ready to retire anytime soon doesn’t bode well for haters of the No. 48 team.
It’s both well documented and continually repeated just how much Johnson has accomplished in his eight years on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit.
And when it comes to the 10-race Chase, he’s made it his personal playground.
“I’ve wanted my whole life to be able—to be a champion, to compete against the best drivers in the world,” he says.
But in his eight years in NASCAR, Johnson has accomplished more than most drivers do in their entire careers. He’s won the big races, he’s won championships, and in fact he’s never finished lower than fifth in points.
In most sports, once a player accomplishes everything he or she can or everything there is, the player moves on and tries something else or retires.
Just look at fellow driver Juan Pablo Montoya. He dominated and won everything there was to win in open wheel racing and then decided to give NASCAR a shot.
Johnson has accomplished everything there is in NASCAR; actually he’s done it numerous times.
He’s a two-time winner of the Sprint All-Star race (2003, 2006). He’s a three-time Coca-Cola 600 winner (2003, 2004, 2005).
He’s also a three-time winner of the Brickyard 400 (2006, 2008, 2009).
He’s won the Daytona 500 (2006), and after Sunday, could have four Sprint Cup Series championships (2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009).
Along the way he’s won at many other great tracks, such as Martinsville, Talladega, and Richmond.
He’s set records and is on the verge of making more history.
Which begs the question: what’s left for Johnson in NASCAR?
He’s done it all, he’s won it all, and yet he’s back year after year to do the same thing.
Doesn’t it get a little old and boring?
Doesn’t he want new challenges?
After all, you can only make history once.
But, Johnson doesn’t think of it like that. When asked Thursday afternoon what else he wanted from NASCAR he replied, “Of course, I want to be successful and win more races and contend for championships, that kind of thing.”
What that means is that Johnson and his No. 48 team won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Instead, they’re going to keep showing up to the racetrack with new determination.
Take, for instance, a few weeks ago at Lowe’s.
Crew chief Chad Knaus badly wanted to complete a perfect weekend by being the fastest in every practice session, winning the pole, leading the most laps, and winning the race.
They did exactly that, and Knaus talked about how he’s always wanted to pull that off, it was something important to him.
Since they’ve done everything else there is, seems they need new ways to find motivation to go out and win.
If fans are looking for ways to get Johnson either away from racing, or distracted enough to end his championship-winning ways, that’s not going to happen either.
Sure, he’s married, but he’s told the media that he and wife Chandra have no plans to start a family. Especially not after seeing teammate Jeff Gordon raising a daughter, he once joked.
He does enjoy spending time at home and with family, but says that it’s not something that he’s looking for on a full-time basis.
“I’m not at a point where I’m craving that time, and I wish I had it,” he says. “Because I love my job, and I love what I’m doing.”
What he’s doing is cementing his place in history, and he’ll be back in 2010 to continue to add to his trophy case.
And while there is nothing major left for Johnson to accomplish, there are six tracks left on the schedule at which he’s never won.
He’s taken home a checkered flag at every style of track except for a road course, he’s 0-8 at both Infineon and Watkins Glen, and has said he wants to add a road course victory to his resume.
And while he’s captured his first and only Nationwide Series victory at Chicagoland, he’s still 0-8 in the Cup Series.
Another 0-8 track is Homestead-Miami, the final race of the year. Johnson has never run well at the track and has never focused on winning the event because he’s always more worried about winning the championship.
While he says he plans to go there and win the event and the title this weekend, that’s hard to believe.
The championship comes first, and until he’s not able to win the title, maybe he’ll focus on winning the race.
The final two tracks that the No. 48 has never pulled into victory lane are Bristol and Michigan; he’s 0-16 at both venues.
Johnson hasn’t been very good at the bullring in Tennessee, but the last few races he has finished in the Top 10.
He’ll be back strong in 2010, and the same goes for Michigan, a track that he’s always run well at but has had problems down the home stretch (problems such as running out of fuel while leading in the late stages of the event). He’ll get two more chances to get the ‘W’ next year.
So, while he has accomplished almost everything there is in NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus won’t rest until they’ve accomplished everything of everything.
Then they can look back at all the championships, Coca-Cola 600s, All-Star races, Brickyard 400s, Daytona 500s and say they’re the only team to have won at all 23 tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.
“Racing’s it. It’s all I’ve ever done. I’m glad it’s worked out because I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing otherwise,” says Johnson. “I’m finally good at it, and I want to keep it up, I want to keep it going.”
And on Friday morning it was announced that Jimmie Johnson will be keeping it going with Hendrick Motorsports and Lowe's until 2015.
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