Johnson won’t stop now
7-time champ feels like he’s ‘playing with house money’
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — So, Mr. Johnson, what are the chances of you winning an eighth Cup season title?
Too soon? Hardly. It’s going to be a permanent and persistent question for Jimmie Johnson after he reached the seven-time NASCAR mountaintop, joining Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt on Sunday.
Johnson’s reaction? Bring it.
“I don’t know what the chances are, but let’s go,” he said at HomesteadMiami Speedway. “I’m so excited to put that in front of myself, and the team has a hurdle to get over and an accomplishment to achieve.
“I had a lot of fun racing for the sixth. This one and the calm nature and the way we went about business and got it done only gives me more confidence. I honestly feel like I’m playing with house money. I never aspired to be famous. I never aspired to be a champion. I just wanted to race.”
Johnson added that his mindset makes his No. 48 Chevy team “really dangerous,” which means troubled waters for everybody else in the garage.
Johnson is by no means a one-man show. He has cobbled together all the elements of success, starting with Hendrick Motorsports, and his wingman, crew chief Chad Knaus.
They are quite the pair, blood brothers chasing the same thing. Knaus has as many rings as Johnson, bonded like Bogie and Bacall, a stock-car bromance for the ages.
“I love him like a brother,” Knaus said. “He’s a fantastic individual.
“Jimmie has taught me more about life than life itself has taught me. He’s taught me about family. He’s taught me about relationships. He’s taught me about being a champion. You know, when we started this thing, all I was was just a racer guy, and he was a cool California kid, and we kind of grew up together.”
That two-fer is very motivated — and very hard to beat.
At 41, Johnson gives everyone a blueprint for success, but there’s this little problem: All the variables in play make it impossible to replicate. There are the driver, crew chief and team dynamics. A driver with a fierce competitive drive. A driver who is also a fanatical workout guy who tracks everything on the Strava app — runs, bicycling, swimming. A fine-tuned body with a fine-tuned car.
Johnson plans things meticulously while leaving a little room for superstition. He said he was going to run seven miles the night before Sunday’s title race for a little extra mojo.
Only he didn’t. Goodnatured ribbing ensued from journalists who included that in their racesetup stories.
“l’ll buy you all a beer,” said Johnson, who had a celebratory brew (and slice of pizza) himself. “Let’s bring the beer in. I’m a failure, sorry. I’ve got seven trophies now. I mean (bleep).”
There might be a lot of bleeping going on in the years to come. Jimmie Johnson is hardly a failure.
He is playing with house money. Everyone is invited to a take a seat at table, but you might want to keep your money in your pocket.
Jimmie Johnson revels in winning his seventh Cup season title: “I never aspired to be a champion. I just wanted to race.”