Season Review: Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson

"It is pretty damn awesome -- I can tell you that." (Photo: Getty Images)

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Jimmie Johnson 2010 Race-by-Race | 2010 Season Loop Data eBook

The unbelievable reign of Jimmie Johnson continued in 2010 when the Hendrick Motorsports driver won his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup Series title.
 
Johnson’s accomplishment put him third on the all-time list behind only Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, each of whom captured seven titles in their illustrious careers.
 
But unlike Johnson’s four previous crowns, the 2010 effort was even more impressive because he had to do it in come-from-behind fashion.
 
Johnson trailed Denny Hamlin by 15 points heading into the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale, but was able to erase that deficit and claim the title to become only the third driver in NASCAR history to come from behind in the last race of the year to win the championship. Petty and the late Alan Kulwicki were the only other two in NASCAR's 62-year history to also accomplish the feat.
 
"I'm just beside myself," Johnson said. "Four was amazing. Now I have to figure out what the hell to say about winning five of these things, because everybody is going to want to know what it means. I don't know. It is pretty damn awesome -- I can tell you that."
 
Johnson began the year winning three of the first five races. But the rest of the 26-race regular season wasn't up to the lofty standards of the perrenial champion.
 
Johnson struggled and had a string of uncharacteristic finishes that kept him well in the championship hunt, but not near the top of the standings.
 
That all changed once the Chase took the green flag, where, after a slow start in the playoff opened at New Hampshire, Johnson turned in one of his patented end-of-season performances that saw him finish in the top 10 the rest of the way.
 
Overall, Johnson scored six victories, including one during the Chase, along with 17 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes.
 
In terms of overall numbers, Johnson continued to rack up an impressive list of accomplishments that have many calling him the greatest driver in the history of NASCAR.
 
His 53 career wins rank 10th all-time and he will most certainly move up to as high as eighth in 2011. Only three drivers reached 53 wins faster than Johnson, who reached it in 319 races: Jeff Gordon (260 starts), Darrell Waltrip (288) and David Pearson (309).
 
While Johnson captured championship number five in 327 starts,  Earnhardt needed 390 and Richard Petty took 655 starts to collect their fifth titles.
 
But, what has really put Johnson apart in his impressive championship career is the ability to perform under pressure during the Chase portion of the season.
 
During the 70 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup events he’s competed in the course of his career his stats are eye popping: 19 wins (second-best is Carl Edwards with eight); 40 top fives (second is Gordon with 27); 54 top 10s (second is Gordon with 45), 3,423 laps led (second is Matt Kenseth with 1,715) and a Driver Rating of 110.1 (second is Gordon with a 98.4).
 
"I think it's definitely going to give Jimmie some of the praise that he needs for the type of driver that he is -- a fantastic driver, and really has not gotten the praise that he deserves," said Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus.
 
"I think if you really sat back and looked at what this guy can do with a race car, you would be pretty impressed. He's been in some pretty precarious situations and driven through them. He's put his nose in places that other people would not be able to pull off."
 
Despite all his accomplishments and accolades, Johnson says he’ll look back on 2010 as the highlight of his career to date.
 
"I've always told you the first championship, the first win, that stuff has meant the most to me. This one, I think this takes the lead," Johnson said. "It's not that the other Chases weren't competitive. We were stronger in the previous two Chases, at least, but this one, I am just so proud."

Previous Reviews

12th-Place Finisher: Jeff Burton

11th-Place Finisher: Kurt Busch

10th-Place Finisher: Clint Bowyer

Ninth-Place Finisher: Jeff Gordon

Eighth-Place Finisher: Kyle Busch

Seventh-Place Finisher: Tony Stewart

Sixth-Place Finisher: Greg Biffle

Fifth-Place Finisher: Matt Kenseth

Fourth-Place Finisher: Carl Edwards

Third-Place Finisher: Kevin Harvick

Second-Place Finisher: Denny Hamlin

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