Last night after the longest race of the NASCAR season Jimmie Johnson served notice that he is making run at another Sprint Cup title and it could bring him a piece of NASCAR history.
Johnson’s victory in the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night all but locked him into the new, expanded championship Chase format. If the 38-year-old Johnson pulls it off, it’ll be his seventh series crown to tie the NASCAR mark shared by Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.
NASCAR leaders changed the emphasis in qualifying, putting more of a premium on wins over the steadiness of points racing. That’s led to a flurry of drivers taking the checkered flag — 10 of them through 12 races — all gleefully celebrating their near-assured spot in the 10-race championship run at the end.
Johnson had been on the outside of that until his record-breaking seventh career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He outlasted second-place Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth in third to pick up his fourth victory all-time in NASCAR’s longest race.
Next week comes Dover where Johnson owns a record eight victories, then Pocono where Johnson’s won three times.
When Johnson broke through for his first crown in 2006, he and Knaus used the formula to add four more in one of the series’ most dominant stretches. After Johnson finished sixth in 2011 and third in 2012, he was back on top last season and moved one step closer to the record with two drivers who were part of NASCAR’s first Hall of Fame class five years ago.