Although he has won 60 races and five consecutive championships in his first 11 fulltime seasons, Jimmie Johnson believes he’s just now hitting his stride as a driver.
With four wins and a commanding 56-point lead heading into Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – a track where he already has four wins – it would be hard to argue against him.
“I feel I’m a far better driver today than I am from my rookie year, my first championship or my fifth,” Johnson said. “Experience is so helpful and useful and important in our sport. I remember saying in different media situations that I would trade my age for experience any day. It really does make a big difference.”
Now 38, Johnson said he has plenty of competitive years left in his career to challenge, if not beat, the Sprint Cup Series record of seven championships by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
“You look at when Earnhardt won his last championship and the bulk of his championships he was older and I think the same thing went for Petty,” Johnson said. “That’s all because of experience.
“I feel that I’m much smarter, focused, my talents are refined,” he said. “I know the race tracks. I know my industry. Everything is so much better today than it was in previous years.”
CHILDRESS COULD EXPAND: Car owner Richard Childress said he’s set to have Jeff Burton and Paul Menard return next season. And everyone expects his grandson, Austin Dillon, to be in a third car to replace Kevin Harvick.
Now Childress said he’s already working on sponsorship for a possible fourth team.
“Right now we’re finalizing some final things,” he said. “We have sponsorship on a third (team) and we actually have some sponsorship on a fourth. But having it all finalized and put together, it could be a couple of months down the road before we have everything ready to do some announcing on any of that.”
Dillon will drive the No. 33 Chevrolet at Indianapolis in one of his selected starts. He will be sponsored by Mycogen Seeds and Childress hinted that sponsorship could become fulltime next season.
Childress is the only car owner to have three different winners at Indianapolis – Harvick, Menard and Earnhardt.
SALE COMPLETE: After owning Sprint Cup and Nationwide series teams since 1989, James Finch started looking to get out of the sport a few years ago. It took a lot longer than he wanted, but he finally found a buyer for his Phoenix Racing team.
Finch confirmed the sale last week, but he refused to say who bought it. Candidates included former champion Terry Labonte and truck series and Nationwide owner Harry Scott.
Finch will work with the new owners through the Sept. 1 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. AJ Allmendinger will be in the No. 51 Chevrolet this Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Current Nationwide driver Justin Allgaier is expected to drive the car in the final 10 races. He’s also expected to bring his sponsor, agriculture retailer Brandt, along for the ride.
Finch had one Sprint Cup Series victory and 13 Nationwide Series wins.