Jimmie Johnson, fresh off becoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion for a mind boggling fifth consecutive season, took a few minutes on Tuesday afternoon to talk with some members of the media.
Topics ranged from his career goals moving forward, offseason plans and the lack of sleep that comes from winning a championship.
In the long history of NASCAR, only two other men have won more championships than Johnson's five. They are, of course, first ballot Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
When asked what what winning a fifth title meant to him, now that he can start to be mentioned in the same breath as the two legends, Johnson said, "Oh, it's everything. I mean, it's just been an amazing experience, amazing for myself and the team."
And while Johnson still trails Petty and Earnhardt in total number of championships, his accomplishment of winning five in a row is something that no one before him has ever done. But in his eyes, is it enough?
Johnson was then asked if he was totally satisfied with five in a row. He answered, "I do feel satisfied. But I have never set marks for myself that I wanted X amount of championships or wins and stuff like that."
He added, "Since I was kid, what's drawn me to racing is the feeling inside of me, the passion I have for the sport, the feeling I have while competing and doing what I do in a car, on a bike, whatever it's been. I guess someday when that goes away, I'll stop."
And it would be pretty easy to assume that as long as the wins and the championships continue to click away, the passion that Johnson has, isn't likely to go away any time soon, which is bad news for the rest of the drivers on the circuit.
It would have been hard to imagine eight years ago, that the then-rookie Johnson, a driver who had had very limited success in the Nationwide Series prior to going full time in the Sprint Cup Series, would be a five-time defending series champion less than a full decade later. But it happened, so what's next for Johnson? What is the next major accomplishment on his list?
When asked, Johnson replied, "I don't have any major goals. If it all ended today, I would be extremely satisfied and proud of what I accomplished, but I still have that desire to work, do my job and compete."
He continued by saying, "I'm going to give 100 percent. As long as I'm in that car, I'm going to apply myself and do everything I can for the team and hopefully be competitive enough to win races and compete for championships."
While Johnson may be modest about his goals and expectations, everyone else has started wondering—many have wondered aloud—how many more years it will take before he surpasses the seven championships of Petty and Earnhardt, a feat that at one time many people thought his teammate, Jeff Gordon, would do.
Johnson was asked about the possibilities of getting seven championships. He responded by saying, "If I can seam together seven in any shape or form to tie those two greats, I would be extremely honored. If I was ever able to surpass them, it would be out of this world."
He would go on by saying, "I would love to get to 10 straight. I don't know how ridiculous that sounds. The realistic side, there's no telling how long it's going to last and I think we are all shocked it's gone on this far. I'm amazed that we've been able to do this for five years straight."
Without a doubt, Johnson has established himself as the new face of the sport and has begun to establish a legacy. As a five-time defending champion, he is what the next generation of drivers is going to look up to and try to hone their driving skills after. So, it's only natural that Johnson had to have some drivers that he tried to mimic as he broke in to NASCAR.
When asked about that, Johnson gave credit to two drivers in particular. He said, "I was really drawn to Bobby Labonte. There's just something there that I liked, paid close attention to. And Jeff Gordon was a great inspiration for me because he was really the first guy with the non-stock car background to get a shot and made the most of it. He inspired me. I kind of pinpoint those two in the people that I really focused on."
But as it is, the 2010 NASCAR season is over, and while the fans have already begun counting down the days to the 2011 Daytona 500, the offseason is a welcome sight for all the drivers and teams, Johnson included.
When asked about his offseason plans, it's pretty simple. "This offseason we really don't have much planned. Really just want to be home, enjoy the holidays with our daughter. I'm really dying for some downtime. I am going to compete in the Rolex 24, so that's going to eat into some of my downtime, as well," said Johnson.
So, after a grueling 36 weeks, and the tightest points battle that the Chase has ever seen, Johnson really only has one other thing that he would like to accomplish at this point. "I could use some sleep, no doubt about that. I'm lacking sleep still at this point."
So, while Johnson rests up and prepares for next season, all that the rest of us can do is stand back and marvel at what this man has accomplished. Never before has NASCAR seen a driver win this many championships consecutively.
Love him or hate him, in a very short period of time, Jimmie Johnson has already solidified himself as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport.