When NASCAR announced the drastic changes to its playoff format, some questioned whether or not it was in response to Jimmie Johnson and his current assault on racing's record books.
Only time will tell if JJ will be just as good under the new system, but the six-time champ is on the cusp of history either way.
“It's crossed my mind. I'm not going to lie,” Johnson said when asked whether he felt like the rule changes were because of his dominance.
Johnson has won 66 races and six championships in 13 Cup Series seasons. With one more title he would match two of the sport's best -- Dale Earnhardt, who racked up 76 wins and seven championships in 27 seasons, and the King Richard Petty, winner of 200 races in a 35-year career, that also included seven championships.
“It's hard to put in perspective but I'm beyond honored to have a shot at it,” Johnson said. “I never thought I would. My goal was to win a race in the Cup series and I've done far more than that. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished and hope that there are some more opportunities in the future to try and tie those two.”
Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr., said: “I think that he has not only an opportunity to tie those two legends but also to exceed what they accomplished and put himself at the top as the guy who won the most championships. Obviously I have my own championships I'd like to win and I’d like to have Jimmie have to wait a few years but I think he's good enough and his team is talented enough and if they continue to maintain their group and continue to work on it, there's no reason they can't accomplish what they want.”
Along with the other Hendrick drivers, Johnson got a pep talk earlier this week from a guy who knows championships, former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, who delivered the address at the organization's kickoff luncheon Tuesday. Bowden won two national titles, and a whopping 12 ACC crowns with the Seminoles.
“The thing I was most impressed with was his sense of humor. He's a very stoic man when he takes the podium, walking you through a huge line of experiences and then there's a huge punch line, ringer at the end that had us all in stitches crying,” Johnson said. So I've known him from afar and watched him on television and know about him and his history and legacy, not only of success on the field but off and have always respected that, but it was a pleasure to meet him and I had no clue he was that big of a comedian.”
Bowden's persona must have rubbed off on the Hendrick crew which was as loose as any other group on the NASCAR Media Tour this week.