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Johnson Says Eight Is Still The Career Goal

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 19 2011

Jimmie Johnson says five is not enough. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The end? Perhaps just half time Jimmie Johnson said when asked about his five-year reign as Sprint Cup champion coming to an end this season.

Perhaps 2011 was just his and his Hendrick Motorsports team’s way of catching its breath before going after more records. Perhaps he will still become the first Cup driver to win eight titles.

One thing is certain, he said at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend. Sitting on five is not the long-term game plan.

Asked if there was still motivation to win more championships, Johnson said, “A ton and I can say that in the past, sitting at the banquet is another level of everything setting in and I have hung onto that moment more than anything in years past, have carried that into the off season.

“I would assume that will take place again, we do not have that nice seat upon the stage; we will be sitting down on the floor and wishing we were up there. I am sure we will leave the banquet highly motivated. Motivation comes easy for all of us. I know that question is asked a lot, but we just want to race and if we are going to spend all the time to do all this we want to be racing for the championship”

Though Johnson holds  the NASCAR record for winning the most consecutive championships, he is three short of the record for most ever.

Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus want more. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

The record of seven is jointly held by Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Winning eight has always been the goal for Johnson and his team and the goal remains the same in the wake of his setback this season.

Asked if he can still get there, Johnson said, “I don’t know. I want to believe in it. How long I can race into my career, I think there is a chance, I don’t know how realistic that chance is, but I want to believe in it and think that I can.”

Johnson will turn 37 years old next season. That is not super old. Earnhardt won his last championship at 43 years of age and finished second a couple times after that. Petty was 42 when he won his last championship.

But the competition was not as close when Earnhardt and Petty were winning championships as it is today when 20 teams capable of winning races take to the track each and every week.

And unless that situation changes over the next 10 years, the road to eight could be a rough one to navigate.

Johnson knows that. And perhaps that is why he went nostalgic in front of reporters on Friday.

“It hit me yesterday with the champions press event that took place, realized that I was not there and a part of it, kind of hit me in the gut a little bit there,” Johnson said. “I was even more disappointed to not be there and at least have a shot mathematically. There are little things that keep playing through my mind, last time I was sitting at this table, sitting here on top of the world, with just winning my fifth.

“Some of those little parts of last year bleeding over into here and looking at those experiences and not necessarily emotional, just thinking about it, like “WOW” it really is over. Disappointed that it is over but very proud at what this team has done, what we have done over the last really ten years, the last five obviously stand out but what we have done as a group over the ten year run so far has been truly amazing and look forward to finishing up strong and I want to be in the top-five in points, finish as high as I can, but I would love to keep the stat alive in of being in the top-five in points for the ten years of my career.”

Johnson surely has top-fives left in him by the bundle. And under a scoring system which rewards consistency over winning races, Johnson obviously has the potential to win more championships.

And events of the past week in South Florida provide even more incentive. Events like the shopping trip his wife, Chandra, took.

“She did well,” Johnson said of the trip. “She can win trophies for her shopping skills. She is good at that.”

And Johnson is still good at driving so don’t be too surprised to see him back on top again. Soon.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 19 2011
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