Jimmie Johnson will have the opportunity to repeat one of his more impressive feats.
In 2006, Johnson won his first Daytona 500 to open the season and went on to win that year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship — the first of his five consecutive Cup titles.
Now, after earning the second ‘500’ triumph of his career last Sunday (and a two-year contract extension with primary backer Lowe’s this afternoon), Johnson is focused on making sure that he’ll be driving away with a sixth NSCS crown this fall.
“When we were sitting and discussing things before the season started, we felt good about the ‘500,’ but we’re really excited for everything after the ‘500’,” Johnson said in Sunday’s post-race press conference after holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the 55th running of “The Great American Race.”
“I’m very hopeful and excited that our 48 car will be really fast at Phoenix, [Las] Vegas and moving forward. I think it’s going to be a very strong year for us.”
That’s not good news for his rivals. After failing to claim the big prize in the last two seasons, Johnson and his No. 48 squad look ready to re-take the throne they held for so long.
With all the hype of Daytona Speedweeks now done, Johnson – who also became the first victor in NASCAR’s new “Generation-6” cars – will truly begin his quest for Title No. 6 this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, where he’s won four times.
As big as a Daytona 500 victory is, it’s still just the first race of the season. Johnson also believes it isn’t a sign that he and Hendrick Motorsports have a step up on the rest of the garage in figuring out the Gen-6 machines.
“It is a little early yet,” he said. “Once we get a downforce race or two behind us, we’ll have a better understanding…Maybe after Vegas, Bristol, we can see which team has the upper hand.”
No doubt it’ll be a long title fight for Johnson. But it’s definitely one that he knows how to win.