DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson continually says that there’s still plenty for him to accomplish in NASCAR.
After five-straight championships, two Daytona 500s, four Brickyard wins and a slew of other victories along the way, it’s often hard to believe Johnson. Yet, the California kid still believes there’s something out, there’s always room for more.
Saturday night at the Daytona International Speedway Johnson added another victory to his 2013 campaign, his fourth in 18 races. He became the first driver in 31 years to sweep both races at DIS since NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison did so in 1982.
And the victory was the 64th of Johnson’s career. He remains seventh on the all-time wins list, only second to teammate and mentor Jeff Gordon of active drivers. The rest of the drivers on list are all in the NASCAR HOF, a place Johnson will certainly be when he hangs up his helmet.
But for now, he’s climbing closer to more milestones. For years the talk surrounded Gordon to surpass the greats of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt in perhaps both wins and championships. Or at least catch David Pearson, 105, in the wins column. Gordon’s pace slowed a few years ago as he’s came across different struggles.
Johnson’s paced picked up. He began collecting his own championships and quietly racking up the wins. Now though, it might be time to start waving the number out there, perhaps he, not Gordon [currently with 87 career wins], will be the driver who gets to and maybe surpass 100 NSCS wins.
“Yeah, I’d love to reach it. I just haven’t put any number out there in my head,” Johnson said late Saturday night, when asked if he was starting to think of what lies ahead.
“That’s just not how I’ve been raised as a driver or a racer, regardless of with bikes or trucks and now where I am today. Very proud of the number. Can’t believe I’m there.”
As the seasons progressed, the wins mounted and championships became what seemed like, easily collected. Yet Johnson never let himself think ahead. Always avoiding the questions about his place in the sport, where he would rank when all was said and done.
After all these years he continues to do so, keeping his head down with tunnel vision on the immediate future for himself, crew chief Chad Knaus and a team that have shattered records and broken what were once thought to be unreachable statistics.
With another victory in his back packet Saturday, eight races remaining before the Chase, Johnson isn’t even thinking about the run at a sixth championship. He’s led the point standings for the majority of the year; he’s tied season high victories. Even worse for the competition, Johnson hasn’t just won races he’s dominated them, even the ones that slipped through his fingers.
Saturday, he was in total control from start to finish. Next comes New Hampshire. That’s what Johnson wants to think about after finishing his victory celebration in Daytona. Not what will come the week after that, next month, in a year or at the end of his career.
“I feel like I have a lot of years ahead of myself inside the racecar, and I know I’ll be in great equipment. Those opportunities [to win races] will be there,” Johnson said.
“I certainly hope to get there, but I just – I usually don’t look that far ahead. It’s kind of on to next week, and I hope to win again, and we’ll see where everything tallies up. But I’ve been given an amazing opportunity at Hendrick Motorsports, and I want to take full advantage of that.
“Of course I want to [reach 100 wins]. Will it happen? I have no clue, but I’m certainly going to try hard for it.”