Since winning his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2013, the world has wondered when or if Jimmie Johnson would capture a record-tying seventh championship. On Sunday, Johnson moved one step closer to making that seventh title a reality.
Prior to the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports as a whole were struggling, with his chances of being able to advance through the Chase to the championship round at Homestead being very slim. However, since the start of the playoffs Johnson and his No. 48 team have taken things up a notch and have been one of the cars to beat week in and week out.
Advancing to the Round of Eight for the first time since the advent of the new elimination format in the Chase, Johnson continued to show the strength of his team at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
After starting the day in third, Johnson overcame the issues of suffering some damage on track and running out of fuel later in the race, and took over the lead with 92 laps to go, never looking back en route to his ninth career win at the southern Virginia short track and his 79th career win in the Cup Series.
With the win at Martinsville, Johnson will now move onto Homestead for the season finale with the chance of competing for a seventh championship to try and tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt at the upper echelon of the Cup Series record books.
Johnson made note of the fact that he has been trying to keep himself from thinking about winning a seventh championship since the Chase started, but with his Martinsville win, he can no longer keep those thoughts at bay.
“I’ve been trying to ignore this conversation about seven (championships) but now I can’t! We’re locked in. I’m just honored to be in this position. I wouldn’t be in this position without the belief of Lowe’s and all their employees had in me back when I was running 10th or 15th in the Busch Series. Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon… all of the people who have believed in me to get this point. It’s crazy that we have a shot at seven now. We couldn’t do it without our partners at Chevrolet, Valvoline and the list goes on and on. Thanks to them all very much,” said Johnson.
“I’ll probably lie to all of you guys and say I’m not going to think about it at all. But it’s inevitable. Fortunately, I don’t have to think about it for three weeks. But we’re going to enjoy this and savor it. We’re going to get our ducks in a row for Homestead.”
Looking ahead to Homestead, Johnson has never set the world on fire in south Florida, with no wins, four top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, two poles, 99 laps led and an average finish of 14.0 in 15 starts. However, with the hot streak that Hendrick Motorsports is on, the six-time champion will be tough to beat at Homestead with championship No. 7 staring him in the face.
By the time all is said in done in late November, Johnson may just be able to join some elite company.