Jimmie Johnson: Why He's Still in Great Shape to Win Title No. 6

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMay 12, 2011

FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 07:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

As NASCAR tries to regain it's footing with the fans, the one thing it may least need is a sixth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship won by Jimmie Johnson.

Four straight titles seemed highly unlikely and certainly five consecutive titles were deemed impossible, yet Johnson was able to accomplish what no other driver in NASCAR history has been able to do.

Though a sixth Cup championship would garner immense media coverage for Johnson and NASCAR which is a good thing, it could also alienate a considerable segment of the fan base who have already tired of his reign.

We are witnessing history in the making with the consecutive titles won by Johnson. He may one day be ranked as the greatest driver in NASCAR history with a secure place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Despite the talent Johnson and his Lowe's No. 48 team led by crew chief Chad Knaus have exhibited, many fail to appreciate what they have accomplished.

With the full backing of Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson and Knaus fully intend to run for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title and it could well be in the cards that they will do it.

During a stop this past January at Hendrick Motorsports on the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, Rick Hendrick commented about Johnson.

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"Jimmie is a machine. Jimmie was in here two days ago and we're eating lunch and I'm eating cookies and he won't eat any carbs and he's getting ready to go out and run 12 miles in 90 minutes or something and I haven't run 12 miles in my life...Who in the world would start now eating like that and working like that that getting ready to get in a car to give him another chance? That's the kind of dedication he's got."

The boss at HMS went on to say, "Until he loses that fire, I don't have to do a thing except give him good stuff and Chad is the same way. I'm not sure either one of those guys could survive if they didn't have each other. They are so much alike."

In addition to the physical control Johnson has, he also has emotional control as the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet. He is a mental driver much like David Pearson was in his day as a driver.

Certainly he can show anger and even direct his frustration to his crew chief, Knaus, but he is quick to regain composure and go about the task of trying to win a race.

The team usually does a bit of experimentation with the car early in the season in preparation for their run to the Chase, and of course, through the Chase. They constantly challenge themselves to do better.

Johnson and Knaus might be considered perfectionists. Knaus may be the best, most focused crew chief in NASCAR today. Preparation is key to exceptional performance and they are prepared.

The career statistics for Johnson in the Sprint Cup series show 54 wins, 138 top-fives and 209 top-10 finishes with an 11.6 average finish. He is currently second in the Cup point standings.

The 11th race of the season is at Dover, the one-mile concrete track where he has six wins and 12 top-10's with an average of 9.7.

This track along with the many intermediate tracks the series is heading to will give Johnson a lot of opportunities to notch wins at tracks that play to his driving style. Of his 54 wins, 37 came on intermediate tracks.

The tracks he hasn't won at are few, Chicagoland Speedway, Michigan International, Watkins-Glen and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

A win at any of these tracks could prove pivotal in his run for the sixth title. It could come down to the final Chase race at Homestead-Miami Speedway where a win might be just what he needs to capture the points lead for this year.

One could easily make the case that Johnson and his team have become addicted to success. The Hendrick Motorsports driver can be seen in a NASCAR commercial that is shown on television where he says, "Winning is the greatest feeling in the world."

Johnson is hardly the most popular driver in NASCAR, having been described as having a vanilla personality. Those who know him well would dispute such a description.

Whatever your feelings about the five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships Johnson has attained, you have to recognize the magnitude of what he is done.

A gambler would say the odds of this driver winning a sixth title are not good. Johnson and Knaus would tend to disagree as they make another run for the championship.

History has shown this Hendrick Motorsports team is one to defy the odds, and they could easily be in shape to capture one more title in 2011. 


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