HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It might be a hard pill for some fans to swallow but Jimmie Johnson hasn't hoisted his final Sprint Cup Series trophy.
There is no reason to believe that Johnson's NASCAR record fourth straight championship will be his last and that five, six or even seven consecutive titles can't be accomplished.
|Jimmie Johnson says this is 'unbelievable,' but also says there's 'a lot more to accomplish.' (AP)|
Which means the sky is definitely the limit.
"It is unbelievable. Four championships in eight years. 47 wins," Johnson said, reciting the amazing statistics he's racked up in his Sprint Cup career. "Everything this team has done is truly amazing. I know that the fans and everybody respects what this race team has done. I can't wait where this race team ends up. We've got a lot of racing ahead of us. I know that we are solidly in the record books. But I know we have a lot more to accomplish."
Johnson's run to the record book has stunned even his teammates including Jeff Gordon, who not so long ago was the driver who was rewriting history.
"I never thought I'd see anybody win four in a row," said Gordon, who has four titles of his own but of course not in succession. "And who's to say they won't go win five in a row next season? We're really proud of them. I know as a member of Hendrick Motorsports it's an honor to see our organization excel like that. And it takes all the people; everybody out there to make it happen."
While Rick Hendrick rightfully gets most of the credit for putting together the dynasty that is Johnson and the 48 team, Gordon deserves some accolades as well.
After all Gordon is a part-owner of the team that made NASCAR history Sunday night, but while he hoped for success when Johnson and company came together, even he never expected what has transpired over the last eight seasons.
Pete's Pit Stop
"Man, you know, they're just good," Gordon said shaking his head. "As a group, as a total group, they're just good. And that's what you see when you see championship caliber teams. You see them come together as one and all working in the same direction with a lot of confidence in each other."
Some believe it hasn't all been simply the combination of driver-crew chief and team that has resulted in Johnson running roughshod over the NASCAR landscape the last four seasons. Luck and breaks have been part of the equation as well.
But while Gordon admits those are elements of any successful team and championship run, he also knows it comes down to performing.
"And you can say oh, well, things went their way," Gordon said. "Well things go your way when you've got a good race car and when you have good pit stops and when the driver and the crew chief are communicating and doing their jobs well. It just trickles on down. And those guys have done it better than anybody else. I think more than four years, to be honest with you, because I think they've been the best team probably the last six years. It just took them a couple of years to figure out how to win that championship. Once they figured that out, whew, man, watch out."
|Final Chase standings|
|1. Jimmie Johnson||6,652||---|
|2. Mark Martin||6,511||-141|
|3. Jeff Gordon||6,473||-179|
|4. Kurt Busch||6,446||-206|
|5. Denny Hamlin||5,335||-317|
|Complete Chase | Traditional points|
Even though Gordon came up short in his quest for a fifth title, he was able to finish third and help Hendrick to another record as the only team owner with drivers sweeping the top three spots in the point standings.
"I know how proud he is to be one-two-three," said Gordon who finished behind mates Johnson and Mark Martin. "I know how much it meant to him. He kept sending me texts and calling me and everything all week long going, 'We really need that one-two-three!'"
"So he put a little pressure on me and this team that I don't think we were really thinking about anything other than just trying to come here and win. And so that did put a little extra pressure on us. And then what can you say about Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus and all the guys at the Lowe's Chevrolet team."
And what else can the team accomplish?
"Man I don't know," said crew chief Chad Knaus. "That is awesome. That is just absolutely incredible. I think that has got to say how impressive this Lowe's team is and what a great, fantastic driver Jimmie Johnson is. Jimmie is an incredible talent. He is the most underrated driver in this garage from the perspective media recognition. I mean that guy can do things with a racecar that I've never seen done before. I hope this proves this to everybody."
It has to prove something to even those that booed Johnson as he rolled down the frontstretch at Homestead to collect his fourth straight championship.
But if it hasn't, Johnson still believes he has time to convert even his staunchest opponents.
"We've covered some territory in a short period of time and I feel the years ahead of us we can even get higher in the record books," he said. "A big thank you to all of the fans of this sport of NASCAR and of our racing."