Seven-Time Shines on Glory Road
by Tom Jensen November 30, 2020
Jimmie Johnson’s seven premier series championships include an amazing run of five in a row, a mark never equaled or even approached.
Contrary to the old expression, not every record is made to be broken, especially not when it comes to NASCAR.
Hall of Famer Richard Petty (2010) set unassailable marks with 200 career race victories, including 27 in a single season and 10 in a row.
The fastest Daytona 500 ever was won by Buddy Baker (2020) in 1980, when he averaged 177.602 mph to win in the “Gray Ghost” Oldsmobile now on display in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Hall of Honor. Baker’s record has stood for 40 years.
Another record unlikely to be ever equaled or broken was Jimmie Johnson’s remarkable streak of five consecutive premier series championships from 2006-2010.
For that matter, given that Kyle Busch is the only active driver with as many as two premier series championships, it could be a very long time – if ever – before anyone ties the record seven titles won by Petty and subsequently matched by Dale Earnhardt (2010) and the newly retired Johnson.
As part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit, Petty, Earnhardt and Johnson each has his first and last championship car on display, along with cars from 12 other premier series champions. All 18 cars on Glory Road were personally selected by guest curator Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2021)
This week’s feature car from our “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports 2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that Johnson drove to his first of seven championships.
Johnson’s car represents the final year of NASCAR’s Generation 4 cars that competed from 1992-2006. Nicknamed “twisted sisters,” these cars bore little resemblance to their street counterparts with bodies that were asymmetrical, with flared, angular fenders.
The 2006 season was an impressive one for Johnson, as he opened the year in dominant fashion, with a victory in the Daytona 500, followed by a runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway and then another victory, this one at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
For the year, Johnson won five races, with 13 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He took his first championship by 56 points over 2003 title winner Matt Kenseth and 68 over Denny Hamlin.
The 2006 season was also a lucrative one financially, as Johnson’s race winnings, which are split among the team and the driver, were $15,875,125. That’s the most Johnson earned in any season.
The 2006 title began Johnson’s incredible run of five straight championships and seven overall, tying him with Petty and Earnhardt.
For Earnhardt Jr. including two cars each from the three seven-time champions in the Glory Road exhibit was an easy decision.
“I love being able to celebrate Jimmie and Richard,” said Earnhardt Jr. “My dad was a seven-time champion, and I love to think of my father as the greatest who ever raced, but there’s two guys who accomplished as much as he did. There’s not many people who have won multiple championships, and here are three guys that have won seven.
“Jimmie’s five in a row is the most impressive accomplishment I believe we have in our sport today. The … run that he had is something that maybe we don’t really appreciate enough. I think as we get further down the road, people will begin to realize how truly special it is.”
There's not many people who have won multiple championships, and here are three guys that have won seven.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Curator’s note: The “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit features 18 NASCAR race cars, from 15 past premier series champions. Collectively, the drivers represented on Glory Road have won 46 of the 72 premier series championships through the end of 2020, or roughly two-thirds of the series titles since 1949.
Seven different decades are represented in the exhibit, as are seven different manufacturers: Hudson, Ford, Oldsmobile, Buick, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Plymouth.