Jimmie Johnson Cashes in with Win at Vegas: Is He NASCAR's Best Ever?

Tucker SargentContributor IIIMarch 1, 2010

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 28:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, celebrates by doing a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 28, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

As the warm afternoon sun faded in Las Vegas Sunday, Jimmie Johnson basked in his 49th career victory after holding off Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon to win the Shelby American.

Johnson's late blast past teammate Jeff Gordon was enough to seal the victory, as Gordon fell past Harvick and the laps ran out on any attempt by Harvick for a winning pass.

The win marks the second straight for Johnson, picking up his Vegas win a week after he won the Auto Club 500 last Sunday in his home state of California.

Johnson's day was short of spectacular, riding mostly in teammate Jeff Gordon's shadow before dashing past Gordon with 16 to go.

Gordon, who led 219 of 267 laps, fell back to third due to an unlucky gamble on pit road.

In late race pit stops, Gordon's crew chief Steve Letarte opted for a two tire stop while Chad Knuas called for four on Johnson's Chevrolet.

The move proved crucial, as Johnson was finally able to creep past his counterpart as his tires gave out late.

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"Well, you know, if we won the race we'd look like geniuses, Steve would have," Gordon said. "The fact that we lost the race, now Chad looks like a genius. That's how it goes sometimes. When you're leading, that's the toughest position to be in, to make that call."

As Johnson could be seen celebrating another victory, in a lets just say "less than excited" manner, one has to raise the question.

"Is Jimmie Johnson the best NASCAR driver in history?"

Well, he's well on his way to becoming that, and the numbers speak for themselves.

Aside from his four straight Sprint Cup titles, the 34-year-old California native has also proven his worth in other areas of the stat book.

Johnson moved into 11th in all-time wins Sunday, just one win away from Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett's equal marks of 50.

His 23 poles place him 27th all-time in Sprint Cup Series pole wins, and he has won at all but five of the 22 tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit.

Another stat to ponder: "Superman," as teammate Mark Martin refers to Johnson, has won 17 percent of his 294 starts since his rookie 2001 season.

Sunday's win also gave Johnson his 15th victory at 1.5 mile tracks, a new NASCAR record.

OK, it's obvious he's the real deal and that owner Rick Hendrick now has a new Golden Boy.

The boos can easily be heard at NASCAR tracks across America, eerily similar to those heard during Darrell Waltrip's dominant 1980s and Gordon's annihilation of the '90s.

With what looks to be plenty of years ahead for Johnson, the record keepers better pull out those jumbo-sized erasers.

This racing phenomenon is on the fast track to rewriting history.

For more articles by Tucker Sargent, visit his blog at http://www.tuckersargent.blogspot.com

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