In a star-studded field full of former winners and young guns ready to step in the spotlight, there remains one driver who will simply not go away or succumb to the demands of winning the Sprint Cup title the past four years consecutively.
While there are a number of drivers who can win the upcoming Brickyard 400, chances are he will be around at the end, like a cobra ready to strike.
Here’s an introduction for a man who needs no introduction, and will more than likely have a major say in who gets to victory lane Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mr. Jimmie Johnson driving the No. 48 Lowe’s-sponsored Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. But just what is it that keeps this talented yet grounded driver from El Cajon, Calif., on top of the NASCAR world?
His superb talent? His world class racing team, which includes arguably the best crew chief in the business in Chad Knaus?
Well those certainly play a major role. However, it is mostly due to Johnson’s calm demeanor and smooth as silk approach to racing that separates him from the talented throng of drivers attempting to take the championship away from him.
Even on his worst day, when things are not working on the track for him – which is a rarity – Johnson can and generally does get the most out of his car, regardless of what might not be going as planned.
His ability to methodically pace himself near the front, coupled with impeccable service from a phenomenal pit crew has virtually rendered him unbeatable, regardless of the type of circuit he is racing on.
A three-time winner and defending champion of the Brickyard 400, Johnson’s performance in the 2009 Sprint Cup season was so impressive that it garnered him the Associated Press Male Athlete of the year award, a distinction never presented to a race driver before.
Upon visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 10 to promote the upcoming Brickyard 400 with four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears, Johnson preferred to talk about his adulation for Mears rather than his own accomplishments.
“I grew up idolizing Rick and if I won a fourth Brickyard 400 and could be mentioned in the same sentence with him, I would truly be honored,” said the low key Johnson. While it may be typical of Johnson to deflect praise, he can no longer fly under the radar with his competitors, who have found out the hard way that he remains the man to beat at virtually every NASCAR event.
From all indications, it looks like Johnson will capture his fourth victory at IMS Sunday in convincing fashion. Some may call his winning regularly redundant, but you cannot ignore his dominance. The other 42 cars lined up with him on Sunday certainly won’t.
Notes: Johnson recently became a father, when his daughter was born on July 7.
In an effort to give back, Johnson and his wife formed the Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2006 to provide resources to families through out America.
You may access more information about his mission and philosophy at jimmiejohnsonfoundation.org.
Tickets for this Sunday’s Brickyard 400 are still available, and you can watch Johnson battle Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart at prices that start at $40.
Contact the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-8500 or log on to indianapolismotorspeedway.com.
Danny Bridges can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.