Texas Motor Speedway

Jimmie Johnson not feeling pressure to win record eight championships

Jimmie Johnson has a chance to become the first driver to win eight championships.
Jimmie Johnson has a chance to become the first driver to win eight championships. AP

Jimmie Johnson doesn’t feel any pressure to do something in NASCAR that’s never been done before — win eight championships.

Instead, Johnson views it as a great opportunity. Rightfully so, as he’s already established himself as this generation’s greatest driver.

“I honestly — I have nothing to be ashamed of in my career, and I feel like I only have upside potential with more race wins and hopefully shots at championships,” Johnson said. “So I’m not going to put pressure on myself to worry about eight. If we get it, it’ll be one heck of a party. But until then, we’re going to have fun still.”

Johnson joined an exclusive club last season by winning his seventh championship, joining Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Even though he’s 41, Johnson is still in peak form.

He won five races a season ago, and has won at least five in four of the last five seasons. He has 80 career wins, third most in the modern era (1972-present), trailing only Jeff Gordon (93) and Darrell Waltrip (84).

“Impressed, not surprised,” Gordon said of Johnson’s accomplishments. “He has a work ethic. I think what makes he and [crew chief Chad Knaus] and that 48 team so good is their work ethic. They are the best, but they don’t believe they’re the best. They never stop working.”

Nobody would be surprised to see Johnson accomplish the feat of winning eight titles this season. This is a guy who won five straight from 2006-10.

Just listen to Johnson’s team owner, Rick Hendrick.

“Jimmie’s in the prime of his career,” Hendrick said. “To me, getting to seven was the challenge. If you could get to seven, then you’ve tied it. It’s hard to explain. I think we took some of the pressure off just getting to seven because now he can just race.

“If eight happens, great. I think he’s got as good a shot as anybody out there. He knows how to race when it gets into the playoffs.”

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison