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Johnson on path to joining NASCAR greats

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 29, 2010) – There is no question Jimmie Johnson has built a dynasty with five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships.

So what’s left for the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to accomplish? A few scribes already have posed the question: Is Johnson on track to become the best driver in the history of NASCAR?

While only time will tell if Johnson can eventually hold that title, he is certainly on pace to do so.
Johnson has put his name near the top of the two most important lists when discussing “best all-time:” championships and wins. His five titles are just two short of NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most all-time. His 53 wins rank 10th all-time, and most likely, he will stand alone in eighth by the end of next season (Rusty Wallace is currently eighth, with 55. Johnson has won three or more races in each of his nine full-time seasons).

Johnson’s pace on a number of other statistics suggest he could one day catch the usual names already included in the “all-time best” debate:

Championships: Johnson needed 327 starts to win his fifth championship. Dale Earnhardt needed 390 and Richard Petty took 655 starts to collect their fifth titles.

Wins: 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).

Two other “win” stats to consider: Johnson has a winning percentage of 16.2 percent, sixth-best all-time.

Those ahead of him are either members, inductees or nominees of the NASCAR Hall of Fame: Herb Thomas (21.1), Tim Flock (20.9), Pearson (18.3), Petty (16.9) and Fred Lorenzen (16.5).

Here is another compelling stat: Johnson has at least five wins in each of the last five seasons. Only three other drivers have accomplished that feat: Petty (10 consecutive seasons with five or more wins), Waltrip (eight) and Gordon (five).

His ability to be at his best during “crunch” time has set Johnson apart. Here are his statistics during the 70 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup events: 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).

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