Johnson’s historic coronation recognized by NASCAR greats – Nascar

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As Jimmie Johnson climbed out of his race-winning, title-clinching Chevrolet at Homestead-Miami Speedway, another Chevy team owner, Richard Childress made his way toward the erupting celebration. Childress walked quickly and deliberately, pausing to shake hands with Johnson’s father Gary and to share his heartfelt praise for Johnson’s extraordinary accomplishment. 


Johnson will formally accept his seventh trophy Friday night at NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series banquet in Las Vegas, the culmination of the 2016 season. He is only the third driver in NASCAR history to earn seven Cup championships and Childress’ former driver, the late Dale Earnhardt was the last to do it in 1994.


“He’s a real champion and I just had to come over here and congratulate him,” Childress said, smiling and beaming over the celebrated accomplishment.


“It is unbelievable. I went over right before the race and told him I was pulling for him and wanted to see him do it. I’m really proud of him.”


Nearby on pit road on that night in Miami, the sport’s only other seven-time champ offered his own praise and perspective on Johnson’s feat.


“Records are a mark and they set something for everyone to shoot at,” Richard Petty said. “Jimmie and his team have done that. They set a goal to get where they are and circumstances and fate made it a reality. They did what they needed to do and now they are at seven championships. Congratulations to him and his team.


“Jimmie is a great champion and this is really good for our sport.”

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Meanwhile, alongside his car Johnson sprayed championship champagne, did television interviews and hugged his family. Patiently waiting alongside the stage was his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. who seemed nearly as happy in the accomplishment as Johnson.


Although he didn’t race because he is still recovering from concussion-like symptoms, Earnhardt was eager to help Johnson savor the historic moment. And he had plenty of praise for his teammate and friend.


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“It is incredible what Jimmie’s been able to do in this sport in such a short period of time,” Earnhardt said. “That’s seven championships in 11 years. I think he’s one of the best drivers the sport has ever seen, maybe the best. He’s been in that conversation for many years and this really closes the book on any doubts that anybody had where he ranks.


“He’s in that discussion with my father and Richard and I’m glad I was a witness to it.”


The Sprint Cup Series Awards is the culmination of Champion’s Week, the industry-wide event in Las Vegas to honor the 2016 champion — as well as the entire 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field.


Comedian and talk-show host Jay Mohr will play host to the awards for the sixth time. Grammy Award-winning artist Sting headlines a collection of acts providing the musical entertainment.


Friday’s NBCSN broadcast schedule opens with a special live edition of NASCAR America at 7 p.m. ET, continues with a red-carpet special at 8 p.m. ET and concludes with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at 9 p.m. ET.


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