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NASCAR Cup Series

Jimmie Johnson Determined for Seventh Title

A simple look at the numbers does not do enough justice for the remarkable career that Jimmie Johnson has compiled in his 16 year journey as a NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor.

The pride of El Cajon, CA has put together the kind of statistics that will surely land him a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

While Johnson will have his spot among the immortals of stock car racing, he’s still got a lot to accomplish in his unmistakable No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS.

For starters, the 41-year-old racer is pursuing a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, a feat that only Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr have enjoyed in the sport’s 68 year history.

Johnson’s six titles, 77 race victories, 214 top-fives, and 326 top-10 finishes have all come with Hendrick Motorsports, a rarity in today’s version of NASCAR.

That said, even as he’s evolved from the young, wide eyed racer in 2002 to the grizzled veteran and leader of the Hendrick campus, retirement is far from his mind, even with the youth movement making its presence known in the sport.

"I have a lot of racing left in me." - Jimmie Johnson (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

“I have a lot of racing left in me.” – Jimmie Johnson (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

“I don’t plan on stepping away for a while,” Johnson said.  “I have a lot of racing left in me.”

Like sports greats such as Tom Brady and Tim Duncan, the pursuit of excellence has been a motivation for Johnson. Since his full-time Cup season in 2002, he’s worked with crew chief Chad Knaus, a team leader who’s compiled quite the career atop that No. 48 pit box.

Winning six championships has been something that’s taken Johnson by surprise.  Ultimately, they are focused on bringing the Cup back home to Hendrick’s campus.

“I never really expected to win one, so I think I’m very satisfied right now with my career,” Johnson stated.  “It would be awesome to get the seventh and we are working hard at it.

The effort has been there with the No. 48 team in what has been a frustratingly good season.  Yes, they had their swoon during the summer months, but they have their early season wins at Atlanta and Fontana and a fleet of fast cars back at the shop.

Needless to say, Johnson expressed optimism about his team’s performance despite a setback during the opening race of The Chase at Chicagoland Speedway last month.

Johnson looks to capitalize on the No. 48 team's opportunities in The Chase.

Johnson looks to capitalize on the No. 48 team’s opportunities in The Chase.

“Yea, we’ve definitely been showing speed over the last month and a half,” Johnson remarked.  “That’s been something that’s very welcomed and there’s been a lot of hard work to get to that point.  Unfortunately, mistakes are still continuing to happen and Chicagoland was on me.

We ran the math and it looks like I accelerated just under two feet earlier than I should have out of that last segment on pit road.  Trying to judge where the nose of the car is to the line, I just got it wrong by a couple of feet and it put us in a deep hole.  To come out of there 12th, it was decent.”

Perhaps some of Johnson’s confidence can be attributed to the commitment that he’s put forth with his physical fitness, a lifestyle aspect that came to light from a former Hendrick teammate.

“My training is just part of my life,” Johnson observed.  “I think Mark set the bar for all drivers to be in good shape. It helps me mentally and physically in the car for sure.  I’m competitive even in my training and I like to help others in their fitness journeys.”

Just as Johnson was mentored by a fellow teammate in Jeff Gordon, the Californian has played a pivotal role in easing Chase Elliott into the rigors and demands of being a competitor in the Cup series, whether it’s on the track or away from it.

Johnson is definitely not telling Elliott to talk to his hand.

Johnson is definitely not telling Elliott to talk to his hand.

“Gosh, there is so much advice I have given to people, nothing really stands out,” Johnson said.  “I’ve been very involved with Chase for the past two years as far as trying to help him manage and balance life, sponsors, racing, etc. I think the main advice I had for him was put good people around you.”

Clearly, the camaraderie has shown especially with The Chase, as Johnson and Elliott carried their team’s colors into the postseason, advancing from the Round of 16 into the current Round of 12.

Since the start of the postseason, the No. 24 and No. 48 cars have been a fixture at the front of the field, much like clockwork despite the passage of time.

Along with being one of the leading figures for Hendrick, Johnson is a member of the Driver’s Council, a group of NASCAR competitors who are committed on improving the on-track product and experience of the sport.

“The Driver’s Council has been a great tool to bridge the gap between drivers and NASCAR,” Johnson reflected. “They hear us, we hear them – it’s a good thing.  It can only get better from here.”

Much like the improvements that the council has made for the sport, Johnson and his No. 48 are likely to follow suit with their performances and efforts in these final seven races.  After all, the road to Homestead-Miami Speedway only becomes narrower and more treacherous with each event.

Regardless of the heightened action on the track, it’s safe to say that Johnson has some superstitions, even having some input with the overall look of his car.

Whether or not those preferences are a part of the Lowe’s ride for 2017 remains to be seen.

Yes, even Six-Time has his superstitions. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

Yes, even Six-Time has his superstitions. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

“I am superstitious about some things,” Johnson said.  “Back in 2014, I thought our white car was bad luck.  I talked to Lowe’s and they changed the paint scheme for me.  The yellow numbers are a fan favorite, and I think that the fans were happy to see them back.

As for 2017, we have yet to announce what that scheme looks like so I can’t really say right now.”

For the moment, it can be said that Johnson, Knaus, and the No. 48 team are more than ready to pursue and achieve NASCAR history.

It all starts with Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  In the end, Johnson and company look to wind up celebrating after all is said and done, with arms raised in victory next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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