Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. have seven Sprint Cup Championships in their resumes which was a major factor in placing them into NASCAR's Hall of Fame on the first ballot. It is the mark of excellence in NASCAR racing. With his ninth place finish in Sunday's Ford Ecoboost 400 in Homestead, Florida, Jimmie Johnson moved one step closer to equally that lofty plateau by winning his sixth Cup Series Championship.
Johnson entered the event with a twenty-eight point lead over Matt Kenseth but many believed that his amazing Championship run started long before they arrived at the racetrack.
"Well, I don't think Jimmie can train any harder and work any harder as an athlete to be in shape, or study what the car does, what the car needs," said Car Owner Rick Hendrick about his championship team's work away from the track. "Chad's the same way. I don't know how they can work any harder. They don't leave any detail undone."
The relationship of driver and crew chief is the key component to any race team's success. However, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have taken that communication and mutual respect for each other to a totally new level.
"He's very into what it is we're doing," said Knaus about his driver. "He's very studious, very intuitive of what's happening around him, what's going on when we're testing or racing. He feeds us great information. He's pretty spectacular."
Johnson isn't one to bask in the limelight but prefers to give credit to those that support him and Knaus gets most of the praise for his team's success.
"Chad has had a great vision on how the pieces of the puzzle fit together," said Johnson on Chad's role in their success. "That's really his department, world. He's not afraid to make a change if need be."
With six titles under his belt, the question now becomes, can he reach that Hall of Fame mark at seven. Petty recently said that he believed that Johnson would reach eight or ten championships before he is through. So, could Johnson be considered the best ever?
"Until I hang my helmet up, it's not necessarily a fair conversation to have," said the humble champion. "Honored to be in the conversation and I know I will have to face it, especially being this close to seven and having a shot to tie those guys."
Next season will be Johnson's Chase toward history but for now, he is trying to take the time to enjoy his sixth championship.
"I want to enjoy the moment," continued Johnson. "I watched my guys tear down the pit box and the pits as I was doing another interview a few minutes ago. They got in a huddle. I'm not sure what they said. I'm watching it from affair, soaking it in, That's my boys. I'm trying to enjoy it, soak it all in."
The season might be over, but Johnson's march to racing supremacy is just beginning.
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