JEFF GORDON, TEAM CO-OWNER, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS:
THOUGHTS ON THIS GREAT TEAM EFFORT TONIGHT:
“Well, it was certainly a different perspective on it being on the pit box with Rick (Hendrick, Team Owner), Chad (Knaus, crew chief), and all those guys on that 48 team. Obviously you never give up until that checkered flag waves. You know, there were moments throughout the weekend where I thought Jimmie and the 48 team were the best ones out there and there were times when it looked like we were going to settle for less than the championship. But those guys never stopped fighting or gave up. The best pit stops came at the right time and the calls that Chad made came at the right time. Jimmie had the most incredible moves and restarts at the end when it counted most and that is why those guys are seven time champions and proved it again tonight.”
FOX NASCAR ANALYSTS GORDON & WALTRIP ON JOHNSON’S RECORD-TYING SEVENTH SPRINT CUP CHAMPIONSHIP
Gordon: “What he is accomplishing may be more significant than what Richard and Dale achieved.”
Jimmie Johnson won a record-tying seventh NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, putting him in the elite company of former champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. Johnson accomplished the feat by winning the race and besting fellow NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano. Below, FOX NASCAR analysts four-time champion Jeff Gordon and Hall of Famer/three-time champ Darrell Waltrip offer their perspective on Johnson’s historic accomplishment.
On the significance of a seventh championship in this era:
Gordon: “A lot of people ask me -- the points have changed and the Chase format isn’t the same as when you and Dale Earnhardt won championships, and I say, ‘Yeah, you’re right. I don’t think you can fairly compare the two scenarios or even pull Richard (Petty) into that.’ But what I can tell you is I think it’s harder to win seven now than back then. I look at the competition level, the Chase format, the variables and difficulty of getting from round to round. What he is accomplishing may be more significant than what Richard and Dale achieved.
“I don’t know if this will ever be done again. I know we said that with Richard, we said that with Earnhardt. It is so hard to win these championships, and to see a guy like Jimmie Johnson … I think he’s already solidified himself as one of the all-time greats, but he set a mark that I don’t know will ever be touched, and he goes into legend category and beyond. And it couldn’t happen to a better guy or a better race car driver.”
Waltrip: “Jeff Gordon is the closest to Jimmie in championships, and when Gordon won his fourth, I figured he would be the guy who would go on to win 100 races and seven or eight titles. But that didn’t happen. There are a bunch of hungry hounds about to hit the track, young men who are going to mature. There is Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and even Joey Logano – up-and-coming drivers who will make it harder for the establishment and older drivers to continue to have the success they’ve enjoyed. How will Erik Jones do at Furniture Row Racing? Chase Elliott will have another year under his belt next season, as will Kyle Larson. Those guys are gaining experience that will make it harder for Johnson to repeat as champion.”
On how many more championships Johnson might capture:
Gordon: “Now, I think the motivation turns into ‘I’ve tied the greats of Richard and Dale with seven, but I want to stand alone on my own with eight. I truly believe he will get eight. He will go for eight, and I don’t think he stops until he gets it.”
Waltrip: “I don’t know if he has an eighth championship in him. I had thought six was his maximum. Johnson had a couple of bad years where he had trouble in the Chase and didn’t make it to the Championship 4, so I wasn’t sure the Chase format suited him. With the way the competition and rules are today, it seems unfathomable he could be in the position to make history, but Johnson is the coolest driver out there. He’s the prototype driver who sits on a hot stove and pees ice water. But he’s not that young anymore and it would be another year under the pressure these guys are under now and the demands on their time and demands to win and advance through the Chase rounds. The pressure is more intense now than ever before. I won’t ever say he can’t do it, because he has had a lot of consistency with the same car, crew chief and team his entire career, and that’s crucial to continued success. I don’t think he has an eighth in him, but I also wouldn’t be terribly surprised if he and Chad Knaus end up winning 10 championships. After all, he is Jimmie Johnson.”