HISTORY! Jimmie Johnson becomes NASCAR’s third seven-time champion, first since Dale Earnhardt in 1994
Homestead, Fla. — At 19:02 EDT Sunday, history was made in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
It was at that very moment, when Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line to complete Lap 268 (one lap over the advertized distance) in the Round of Four Championship race, that every one around the sports world knew something that had happened only two times before happened again.
A driver had won seven NASCAR Premier Series titles.
That is the very sharp top of the NASCAR mountain.
What made this extra special is the fact that Mr. Johnson had led only two laps all day Sunday: the last two.
“I’m just beyond words,” Mr. Johnson told the NBC Sports interviewer as he climbed out of the 48 car. “I didn’t think the race was unfolding for us like we needed it to give us a chance. (Crew chief) Chad Knaus called a great strategy and made some great adjustments for this short run. Some luck came our way, and we were able to win the race and the championship.”
Just thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m so thrilled to be given this opportunity and so blessed.”
Richard Petty, previously the only surviving seven-time champion (1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979), said this on-air at NBC after the race:
“Records are a mark and they set something for everyone to shoot at. Jimmie and his team have done that tonight. They set a goal to get where they are and circumstances and fate made it a reality. They did what they needed to do and now they are at seven championships. Congratulations to him and his team.”
Jimmie is a great champion and this is really good for our sport.”
Kelley Earnhardt, a surviving daughter of the other seven-time champion, the late Dale Earnhardt, tweeted:
Very deservingly @JimmieJohnson joins two other great racers with 7 championships! My dad, if here, would happily welcome him to the elite.
— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) November 21, 2016
Her half-brother, Dale Earnhardt Junior, a Hendrick Motorsports teammate of the organization’s #1 driver, said:
“He’s certainly in a lot of people’s minds going to be considered the best. I’ve always felt like he was the best driver in this era — even better than Jeff (Gordon). … His understanding of car control, how much grip he has and how aggressive he can be and how to maneuver cars through the corner — he really has a knack. He has something special that a lot of drivers don’t have.”
Even when he won five in a row, people still weren’t willing to plug him into that conversation of being the greatest we’ve ever seen,” Earnhardt said. “But (now) you have to, because he’s matched the top accomplishment in the sport aside from the 200 wins Richard has.”
People that are here today and have watched the racing over the last several years have to realize what they’ve been a witness to. It’s pretty impressive.”
Mr. Johnson, who is also a two-time father, has contributed to the numbers a lot since his rookie season in 2002, but these numbers speak for themselves.
- 52: The number of years it took for three drivers to win seven titles.
- 80: The number of career wins Mr. Johnson currently has as he also won the NSCS Round of Four Championship race on Sunday. He is thirteen wins away from tying Mr. Gordon, who was the #1 driver for Hendrick Motorsports from 2005 until his retirement in 2015. Mr. Johnson was promoted to the #1 driver on the team in February, due to his seniority. He is 120 wins away from tying Mr. Petty.
- 1: the number of drivers currently in the sport who made every Chase. It’s obvious who I am talking about. That is also the number of times Mr. Johnson missed being on-stage at the awards ceremony (2014).
- 15: The number of years it took for Mr. Johnson to win seven championships, eclipsing Mr. Earnhardt’s 16-year stretch.
- 41: Mr. Johnson’s current age, making him the youngest seven-time champion. Mr. Petty was 42 when he won his seventh championship in 1979, and Mr. Earnhardt was 43 when he won his seventh championship in 1994.
- 35: The number of career poles Mr. Johnson has. He won at least one pole position in each of his seven championship seasons. With the exception of 2011, he won at least one pole in his career.
- 218: The number of career Top Fives Mr. Johnson has.
- 330: The number of career Top Tens Mr. Johnson has.
- 154,568: The number of laps Mr. Johnson has run since his career began in 2002.
- 18,446: The number of laps Mr. Johnson led. That includes the piddling two laps he led on Sunday, which was enough to vault him into the history books.
- 2: The number of Daytona 500s Mr. Johnson won (2006, 2013). Incidentally, he won the overall title both times.
- 14: The number of career Grand Slam wins Mr. Johnson has. In addition to the two Daytona 500s, he also won the Bojangles Fried Chicken Southern 500 Darlington and the Grand Slam race at Talladega two times each, and the Coca-Cola 600 and the Brickyard 400 four times each.
The last time NASCAR had a seven-time champion was in 1994. That year:
- New York passed a redundant law protecting breastfeeding of children and adults in public. The practice of breastfeeding was actually protected two years earlier when the state’s Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York, issued a sweeping ruling that struck down all laws and ordinances banning public nudity.
- Bill Clinton was president and the deficit began falling.
- Ernie Irvan was nearly killed in a crash in Brooklyn, Mich.
- David Beasley was elected as the Governor of South Carolina.
- Shelbyville, Ky. set the record low for the State of Kentucky at -34° F.
- Mr. Earnhardt won his championship clinching race at Rockingham, N.C. by holding off Rick Mast.
- The Camping World Truck Series did not exist.
- Mr. Earnhardt ran his last race in what is now known as the xfinity Series.
- SWV released “Right Here”, which was a sample of the late Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”.
- Madonna released a very erotic video known as “Human Nature”.
- Skorts and miniskorts were the fashion craze for women and girls.
- Dale Jarrett failed to qualify for the race in North Wilkesboro, N.C. during the autumn.