Feature Image: The No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson won five straight NASCAR Cup titles from 2006-10. (Photo by Raceconn CC By 3.0 licence).
A couple of things to know about Jimmie Johnson. First of all, he recognizes his legendary hockey franchises. Secondly, for a guy based in the Carolinas, apparently he’s not much of a basketball fan.
One thing you already knew about Johnson. When it was crunch time on the track – or winning time, as basketball legend Michael liked to call it – Johnson was going to come through in the clutch with his clutch and his clutch driving. At NASCAR playoffs time, Johnson was always the best bet.
“The Chase does something to everyone,” Johnson said. “The pressure that’s put on the drivers, watching your life’s work come to work over a 10-race period of time.
“As the races click off, and it comes down to two or three races left, it does weird things to people. Outside the car, on the pit box, things happen. We’ve seen that.”
Words like GOAT and dynasty get thrown around and affixed too easily in today’s sports culture. The instant gratification society in which we live is quick to assign greatness when it hasn’t been earned. Putting players and teams up on pedestals for one or two strong seasons is commonplace.
What Johnson did in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports made him the true GOAT of his sport, and what they achieved on the track as a team was a legitimate dynasty. Johnson and the No. 48 car won five successive NASCAR Cup titles from 2006-10.
Quite possibly, it was the last great sporting dynasty we’ll ever see.
“I’ve never really thought of it along those lines,” Johnson said.
Few of us ever ponder our place in history, no matter how much history we’ve made. With Johnson, there were plenty of historic moments along for the ride. That’s a reality he won’t debate.
“It’s no easy feat,” Johnson said. “Five in a row has not happened all that frequently. I think there was the (Montreal) Canadiens, and you had a college basketball team, if I remember correctly.”
Johnson not only referenced the Habs’ 1956-60 run as Stanley Cup champions, he even pronounced Canadiens with perfect French-Canadian precision.
That college basketball team? UCLA. You might remember them, even if Johnson didn’t. The John Wooden-led Bruins were an NCAA Division I basketball powerhouse, winning championships seven years in succession from 1967-73.
He also completely forgot the record eight straight NBA titles won by the Boston Celtics from 1959-66. The New York Yankees captured a record five World Series from 1949-53 and twice the Green Bay Packers won three consecutive NFL titles (1929-31, 1965-67) to set the standards in the other major North American sports.
Modern Era Dynasty
Five-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (Photo by Sarah Stierch CC By 4.0 licence).
All of those record runs were established in long-ago eras, when sports was a much different beast. Johnson and his team did it in a time frame where back-to-back titles were considered to be extreme achievements.
“I’m very proud of what we did,” Johnson acknowledged. “We did something in a very difficult period in NASCAR history, with the competition as close as it is, week in and week out. And the fact that year after year, it was a different driver (battling him).
“You look at the names of who we raced with for those championships – Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin – these were amazing drivers with amazing teams.”
Edwards still marvels at Johnson’s dominance.
“Each year, you knew they were only going to get stronger throughout the season, so we’d have to keep digging, we’d have to keep moving forward,” Edwards said. “Those guys, amazingly, were able to stay right there and always be knocking on the door.”
Driver Kevin Harvick, who came close to chasing down Johnson in 2010, tipped his hat to what the No. 48 team was able to achieve year after year on the track.
“It was an incredible accomplishment that they put together,” Harvick said. “I think you look at the way that we were able to do it, it was via multiple ways. They’d be behind, they’d be ahead. They were consistent. They were spectacular. They made it work.
“Each year, it’s a different animal, and they were good at figuring that out. You just can’t make any mistakes, and that’s what those guys were good at. When it was time to go, come Chase time, they figured out how to win, and they figured out how to overcome their mistakes and make them into good days.”