Winning has become second nature for Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s team. Victory lane celebrations are as familiar as getting up each morning and brushing your teeth, something that you’ve done a million times and could do with your eyes closed.
You don’t think about it, just go through the motions and there's no difference for Jimmie Johnson. He just wins, and pisses people off, either in dominating fashion, or by being there when it matters the most.
Sunday, at the Bristol Motor Speedway Johnson won… again.
Actually, he won for the third time in 2010, out of five races, and for the first time at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile after being so frustrated at the track the past eight years. Lost in the shuffle or just mildly overlooked, was the fact that with the win, the defending Sprint Cup champion now moves to 10th on the all time wins list, tied with Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson in that position.
Just how many wins does Johnson have? Chew on this: 50 in eight years on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. Surprised? Impressed? So was team owner Rick Hendrick after Sunday’s win: “When I think about this is the 50th win, it’s amazing, because it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.”
While many are quick to jump on the Johnson bandwagon in saying that he’ll get to five championships, either this year or next, and that he could even match and/or break Earnhardt and Petty’s of seven, not much is said about his growing trophy collection. In order to capture all those titles, you need to be fast on the track, something that Johnson has shown time and time again, which means the win total is quietly climbing.
Since seeing Johnson holding a checkered flag is nothing new and everyone’s gotten so used to it, it’s hardly thought about except a just another race weekend. Winning is great but in the end, it’s about who took home the big trophy from Homestead and everyone’s eyes have been on Johnson. Being only 34-years-old, Johnson and Co. have many more years left in them.
He’s just going to keep going. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. He’s going to break every record possible. There’s no one that can stop him.
With eight years under his belt, and five in year nine, Johnson and the 48 team just keep getting better. Each weekend, they’re learning something new, either about themselves or their cars. There's no doubt they’ve become quick studies and have adapted to everything thrown their way. New tracks, new cars, and new competition have done nothing to slow them down. It might be safe to say that you’ll see Johnson in victory lane 50 more times over the next eight years, if not more.
Shaking your head in doubt?
Think something’s going to derail him, like running out of motivation after accomplishing so much already? Not likely, says crew chief Chad Knaus: “I can promise you, there’s no switch that's going to flip anytime soon. No matter what happens, that’s going to make us not want to go to the racetrack and win races.”
Or maybe you’re convinced that he’ll stall out along the way?
Guess the last few years have been a blur. Johnson has never finished lower than fifth in points, has four straight titles and the already mentioned 50 wins. It bears repeating, that’s in eight years! On one hand, eight years could be considered a large number, but in racing, that’s a short amount of time. The team has never had a bad year, no sense in thinking they’ll all of a sudden forget to show up and how to do their jobs.
Oh wait, it’s just not possible since Jeff Gordon didn’t do it right?
With all due respect to the original four-timer as some call him, Johnson is in a league above Gordon. Once considered to be the only driver that would take down the giants of Earnhardt and Petty, Gordon has been stuck since 2001. With four championships and 82 career wins, Gordon was the driver of the 1990s and early 2000s, but Johnson has picked up where Gordon left off.
It’s very possible that Johnson and his team could hit a brick wall and not reach 80, 90, or 100 wins or win any more titles. However, for the last four years, this team has done everything and anything that others said they couldn’t do. There was no way they could win three titles and they did. There was no way they could win four straight titles and they did. There is no way they could win a certain race and they did.
Jimmie Johnson just wins and he just wins a lot.
Years from now, if he is somehow able to reach triple digits in the win column, many are going to sit there and be surprised, wondering how it happened. They were too busy watching the Sprint Cup championship trophy being hoisted that they didn’t watch history in the making. If there is one team that is capable of being the next ones to reach the 100 wins mark or more for the first time since the late 1970s, it’s the Lowe’s team.
Says Johnson, “I don’t have any hard numbers. I just want to win races. I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I feel extremely confident in the car, in my race team.”
Don’t be surprised if he does keep winning; this team isn’t done yet.
They’re just getting started.