As this column closed for press, Jimmie Johnson was homing in on wrapping up his fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, an unprecedented achievement. Johnson scored his sixth win of the year and the 46th of his career at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October. With two races to go as Motor Sport closed for press, Johnson held a 73-point lead over Hendrick/Chevrolet team-mate Mark Martin. Fellow Hendrick star Jeff Gordon was 112 points down on Johnson in third place with just Phoenix and Homestead to go.
Last year, Johnson equalled NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough’s feat of winning three championships in a row (with Junior Johnson’s team back in 1976, ’77 and ’78). But nobody, including seven-time NASCAR champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, has ever won four consecutive titles. If Johnson pulls it off he will become the first NASCAR driver to do so and will also equal his team-mate Jeff Gordon’s tally of four championships. Gordon is NASCAR’s most successful active driver and a part- owner of Johnson’s car.
In the prime of his career Johnson, 34, could easily race for another 10 years. He’s an extremely nice guy, too, quiet and well-mannered, a Californian with a home in Manhattan. Not at all what most NASCAR fans would prefer their champion to be. But he’s firmly established with NASCAR’s most powerful team and likely to emerge as one of stock car racing’s most successful drivers of all-time. He could even surpass Petty and Earnhardt’s tally of seven championships.