He is one of the greatest drivers of all time. Jimmie Johnson’s name has long been among such icons as Tony Stewart, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, and Lee Petty. By the time he was done his run of five, he had even surpassed Jeff Gordon and now only Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty have claimed more titles. He is the best driver of his era, he has the best crew chief in Chad Knaus, drives for the best team owned by Rick Hendrick and, with the departure of NAPA, you could argue that Lowe’s is even the best sponsor in NASCAR. Is it any wonder Johnson has six Cup championships to his credit?
There are those who do not like to see one guy win so much. If I am watching greatness, if I am watching what has become an historic championship dynasty, I believe I am fortunate to be a witness to it. No one had before won five straight crowns and only two legends have won more titles over their career. Some may forget that Matt Kenseth, the race and season runner up, Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, or even 2012 winner Brad Keselowski are former champs. No one with even a passing interest in the sport could ever say the same about Jimmie Johnson even years from today. Love him or not, Johnson is the Celtics, Yankees, Canadiens, and Eskimos (remember, I am Canadian) of his sport. Chad Knaus is their Red Auerbach, Joe McCarthy, Toe Blake, and Hugh Campbell. By the way, is Six Time a real athlete? If Donovan McNabb, who is ten months younger than Johnson, would like to challenge the driver to wind sprints, be my guest.
Johnson finished ninth on Sunday, while ten of the 13 Chasers finished among the Top 13 on the day. The race marked the likely final run in the Cup career of Juan Pablo Montoya (18th at Homestead) while Mark Martin (882 races) and Ken Schrader (763) seem to be done at this level. Still, something tells me that you can be sure to see them racing something somewhere yet.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr was 22nd on Sunday and named the circuit’s top rookie. His competition, and girlfriend, Danica Patrick was two spots better at Homestead. That did not happen often enough. The boy had 25 Top 20’s in 2013, the girl had 9.
Rating Homestead – 7/10 – Only late in the game was one fully secure in the probability Johnson would lay claim to the crown. Kenseth threatened to win the race to maximize his points day, and it was up to the newly named Six Time to avoid disaster. Denny Hamlin ended a horrid season with a victory, Junior mattered in this race and season, and we learned not to get too close to a burning tire. Now, if I could mute the announcers while maintaining the ambient sound, my television experience could be truly enhanced.
No change in the announce booth for 2014. Same goes for the schedule, though some off season tinkering with the car hopefully might equate into more successful passing. Change is coming on the track, as ten full-time rides will have different hands on the wheel. One ride is gone (#56) to be replaced by two new full-time entries (#41 and #95), with two changing numbers (#29 becomes either #3 or #33, and #39 becomes #4). All this, and we still have about a hundred days before they fire up at Daytona.
Enjoy the winter!