- Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 December 2010 21:56
- Published on Tuesday, 07 December 2010 21:56
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At just 35 years old and with five Sprint Cup championship trophies already on the mantle, a fair question is: What’s next for Jimmie Johnson? Is Johnson on track to become the best driver in the history of NASCAR?
While only time will tell if Johnson can eventually hold that title, he is certainly on pace to do so. He has put his name near the top of the two most important lists when discussing “best of all time” — championships and wins. His five titles are just two short of Hall of Fameers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most all time. His 53 wins rank him 10th all-time, and most likely, he will stand alone in eighth by the end of next season. Rusty Wallace is currently eighth with 55. Johnson has won three or more races in each of his nine full seasons on the circuit.
Johnson’s pace on a number of other statistics suggest he could one day catch the usual names already included in the all time best debate.
Championships: Johnson needed 327 starts to win his fifth championship. Dale Earnhardt needed 390, and Richard Petty took 655 starts to collect their fifth titles.
Wins: Only three drivers reached 53 wins faster than Johnson, who reached it in 319 races. Jeff Gordon in 260 starts, Darrell Waltrip 288 and David Pearson 309.
Two other win statistics to consider: Johnson has a winning percentage of 16.2 percent, sixth best of all time. Those ahead of him are either members, inductees or nominees for the Hall of Fame: Herb Thomas, 21.1 percent; Tim Flock, 20.9 percent; David Pearson, 18.3 percent; Richard Petty, 16.9 percent; and Fred Lorenzen, 16.5 percent.
While we’re talking stats, here’s one more. Johnson has at least five wins in each of the last five seasons. Only three other drivers have accomplished that feat. Richard Petty had 10 consecutive seasons with five or more wins, Darrell Waltrip had eight, and Jeff Gordon also had five.
His ability to be at his best at crunch time has set Johnson apart. He has driven in 70 of the season’s final 10 races that make up the “Chase for the Sprint Cup,” In those 70 races, Johnson has 19 wins, second best is Carl Edwards with 8. With 40 top fives, Jeff Gordon is second with 27, and in the final 10 races that make up the Chase, Johnson has 54 top 10 finishes, Gordon is second with 45.
Johnson has led 3,423 laps in Chase races; Matt Kenseth is a distant second with 1715 laps led. Is Jimmie Johnson the greatest ever? It is nearly impossible to compare drivers from different eras. But with five straight Cup championships, Johnson’s has to be in most any fan’s list of the top five, and at his young age the sky’s the limit.
Just a few weeks ago Richard Petty Motorsports’ financial situation was so shaky it was a question whether they would be able to make the season’s final races. Monday of last week, Richard Petty announced the team has secured financing to buy out majority owner George Gillett, pay off the huge debt load the team was struggling under, and re-aligned the teams management. Unlike the deal under Gillett’s ownership where Richard Petty simply sold his name to the company and showed up to smile and glad hand the sponsors and fans on race day, Petty will have a solid financial interest, and management position overseeing daily operations going forward.
The new deal, has Ford Motor Company involvement written all over it. For 2011 the team will field two cars, the No. 43 with A. J. Allmendinger driving and the No. 9 driven by Marcos Ambrose.
The majority of the money is coming from Medallion Financial Corporation, a publicly traded investment company with more than $3 billion invested in various companies since its initial IPO in 1996. Board members include former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Senator Lowell Weikert of Connecticut. Additional funding is coming from
DGB Investments , an investment company owned by Canadian investor Douglas Bergeron.
At the press conference to announce he had financing in place to continue operations Richard Petty said, “Today is a great day for me, my family, our fans and our wonderful sponsors who have supported me through thick and thin and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”