When you look at the accomplishments of NASCAR Hall of Famers like Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, and Dale Earnhardt Sr., you would think that no one would ever surpass their records. However, with each passing year, Jimmie Johnson either closes in or breaks a record that was thought to be unbreakable.
His victory in last Sunday's Dover AAA 400 was another step in his march to NASCAR greatness and surpassed Petty and Allison with the most wins at the Dover International Speedway.
"It's really cool," said Johnson about passing his heroes. "I'm not sure I've ever done what Richard Petty hasn't. To get this eighth win here is very, very special."
Johnson was not the only person humbled by his rise to NASCAR greatness. His crew chief, Chad Knaus, was equally impressed.
"It's pretty spectacular every time I hear Jimmie's name mentioned in the same sentence as guys like Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., all the guys that have done so well throughout the history of our sport," chimed in Knaus about his driver. "To be able to one-up those guys right now is pretty spectacular."
With five championships to his credit and challenging for a sixth, Johnson is headed toward another record which is held by Petty and Earnhardt. Their seven titles was thought to be unreachable in modern times but Johnson is on a pace to equal that mark in the next few seasons. Knaus seems to think the success belongs to Johnson's ability to close a race when he had the lead.
"It's been an honor to be able to work with Jimmie over the course of the years," continued Knaus. "I think he's able to pull out some things that are pretty spectacular. He's able to dig deeper, pull out his cape, make things happen in winning moments of these races that other people cannot do. It's pretty spectacular."
Johnson's closest competitor in Sunday's win was his teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. felt that he had a chance to win but realized that Johnson would have to make a mistake before he could take the win away.
"His car was good," said Jr. after the race ended. "I had to run perfect laps to maintain the pace that he had, just to not let the lead get any bigger, just hope that he'd start coming back to me there at the end. It was just a little bit too late."
Johnson has had a string of bad breaks in the last several months and seemed to be an also ran for the Chase. However, with four races down and six to go, Johnson's win moved him into second place in the standings and only eight points away from the lead. If he gains confidence again, he could be headed to a sixth championship and one step closer to certain Hall of Fame status.
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