Jimmie Johnson Proves (Again) Why He's a Three-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IJuly 27, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - JULY 26:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Recurring themes are something of a common place in NASCAR, with repeat race winners, consistent finishers, as well as drivers and teams collecting championship after championship.

Maybe after Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, we'll include another sub-plot to the broken record player that is the Sprint Cup Series:

Jimmie Johnson is the best driver in the series this decade.

No way am I jumping on their bandwagon, nor am I drinking the Kool-Aid prepared by the No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools team.

I'm simply pointing out the obvious, whether or not you wear green and white shaded glasses or drink Pepsi.

Sure, Kyle Busch is the face of the youth movement in the sport, and yes, Mark Martin's success in 2009 is often discussed along with his age as often as Jeff Gordon needing hair dye to look presentable.

Tony Stewart's arguably one of the sport's most versatile leadfooters, seamlessly driving an open-wheel car as well as he drives a Grand American racing machine around the Daytona road course.

However, when this decade closes, it will be remembered as the "Years That Jimmie Johnson Built."

I might be a pun machine, but Johnson's living up to his sponsor's services of home improvement and services.

Just when you think you've seen this 32-year-old's best season, JJ builds another mansion that upstages his previous masterpiece.

Much like The Beatles releasing acclaimed album after another, The Johnson 48 are producing hit races that may not be appreciated until the last note has been played.

Admit it, if we flashback to the fall of 2001: when Gordon announced the signing of Johnson to the newly formed No. 48 team, you did the following:

Your eyes rolled with shoulder shrugging, causing you to say, "As if!"

Oh, how those skeptics had a field day when Gordon and Johnson had a "Q&A" in the Lowe's television ads from the winter of 2002 with these following words:

JG: "Are you ready to win?"

JJ: "Yeah, I'm ready to win."

Skeptics laughed and rolled on the floor, leaving the blind optimists to answer back in 2002 to the tune of this kind of music:

As if!

As if Johnson was really going to win on the circuit and collect championships?

Dream on!

That's a great Aerosmith and Depeche Mode song, and hey, we're entitled to do that.

Seriously now, he might be driving Jeff's old cars and for Hendrick Motorsports, but if you're not with the No. 24 team...

Well, fair enough. From 1995 to 2001, the No. 24 team not only was the premier team from Rick Hendrick's stable, but undoubtedly the face of NASCAR for fans and the media.

If you were not Gordon or anyone working on the DuPont Refinishes Chevy, you were probably racing for pride and money.

Otherwise, those titles and checkered flags were being collected by some outsider who has gone on to rewrite the history of this motorsports series.

Heading back to the present, Johnson is accomplishing, in his own way, his legacy as we watch each race on the tube or at the track.

Upon reflection, regardless of who you cheer for on race day, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus are carving their legacy and story as legends.

Knaus is a great, innovative wrench head who's been known to push the envelope as far as the sport's supposed black and white boundaries are concerned with the rules.

His skills are matched up with an equally as competitive driver who seems to win in any battle he's engaged to, whether it's a race or with the media as far as his "dry" personality goes.

2006 was a gem season, likened to "Rubber Soul" by The Fab Four. It's an album chalked-up with tracks you could listen to completely, much in the way Team 48's campaign went in their coronation as a champion.

Then came "Revolver" or 2007, where the No. 48 team was seemingly in Victory Lane "Here, There, and Everywhere" when the Chase was coming to a close.

Teammate and owner Gordon was poised for a long-awaited fifth title, only to see his prodigy beat him at his game.

In any other year, Gordon simply had a masterful season deserving of a title, much like "Pet Sounds" was a wonderful album for music listeners in 1966-'67.

Instead, it was that "sneaky" El Cajon, Californian who pulled another fast one with the series trophy hoisted at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

That probably described the sentiments of The Beach Boys' leader/composer Brian Wilson when he heard "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Once Wilson (aka Gordon) heard that epic LP (we'll call it "The Chase of 2007 That Dejected Us In 2008"), he felt that those four lads from Liverpool had "gotten there."

Well, Gordon or competitors be damned, Johnson, with "A Little Help From His Friends," compiled a season for the ages in 2008.

The tempo started off slow, with some mellow hits fused with some hope, and an ending that elevated this once unnoticeable stock car prospect from the late 1990s/early 2000s into a new dimension.

There's a saying where "all good things must come to an end," which is true.

Since Gordon's dynastic run from the late 1990s to 2001, the No. 24 team has compiled good, but not incredible seasons meriting a title.

The Chicago Bulls were the NBA's team of the 1990s, but their run ended as soon as Michael Jordan walked away from the game for a three-year breather.

As for The Beatles, dissension and individual growth as musical artists broke apart one of pop culture's best bands to ever perform internationally.

A time might come when Knaus wants to pursue goals that might require him to break away from the No. 48 team, as unlikely as that may be right now.

It happened to the greatest crew chiefs like Jeff Hammond, Ray Evernham, Kirk Shelmerdine, Andy Petree, and Dale Inman, to name a few.

Don't count out Johnson, who might feel that their pairing has reached an impasse in the future.

When it does, replay "The Greatest Hits" album about this unlikely duo that greatly shaped up the NASCAR world in the 2000s.

Entering the decade, the "old guard" of Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Bobby and Terry Labonte, Gordon, and Dale Jarrett were waging sheet-metal battles across the country.

Through various circumstances, the landscape of NASCAR has greatly change since 2000.

Although Gordon remains competitive and Bobby Labonte runs respectively in the No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion, a new lineup emerges to spearhead the efforts of the sports into the next 10 years.

Stewart, Gordon, and Labonte will be closing out their careers with the likes of the Busch brothers, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and oh yeah...

...that three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion named Jimmie Johnson, who'll probably be at the right place and time, complete with the checkered flag and trophy in hand.


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