Jimmie Johnson accepted his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at the season-ending Awards Ceremony with humility, class and thanks for his predecessors and the people around him that push him to be better.
In opening, Johnson tried to draw off his peers with at least that many titles, the pair of legendary seven-time champions Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt. Unfortunately for Johnson, Petty’s wasn’t televised, and Earnhardt’s “didn’t have much there,” because “he was as nervous as the rest of us on this stage.”
From there, the usual expressions of thanks to the Hendrick Motorsports organization, crew led by crew chief Chad Knaus, all sponsors and partners and to Chevrolet were part of his seven-minute long address.
“These people have all molded me into the person and driver I am today,” Johnson admitted. “That includes all the drivers that I’ve worn out asking questions. Teammates, family and friends.”
But where Johnson’s emotion shone through came toward the end of the speech, in thanks to his wife Chandra and family for their support during the season. Prior to the Richmond regular season finale, Johnson’s second daughter Lydia was born, joining older daughter Genevieve.
“This year was clearly a huge year on track, but personally it was so much more,” he said. “Genevieve is now 3 and a half, and Lydia was born a week before the Chase started. Being a parent is the best thing.
“We had a lot going on the last 10 weeks. The glue that kept it all together is my wife Channy. I couldn’t have done without you, but don’t get teary eyed and make me get teary eyed please!”
Johnson closed with a quote from the late Nelson Mandela, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 95.
“It’s from the late Nelson Mandela in 2006: Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. The power to unite people in a way little else does,” he said.
Johnson’s a powerful force on track, but he also carries the humility and class you want from a champion. A fitting touch to the end of the year, really.
You can see Johnson’s speech and the rest of the top 10 from last night’s banquet in this link from NASCAR.com.