NASCAR

No reason to hate on Johnson?

Jimmie Johnson is nearing his sixth Sprint Cup Series championship.
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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.

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I have been very blessed in my NASCAR career to have been in the position that Chad Knaus finds himself going into this week and weekend. The key is not to deviate. The key is keeping your week as constant as any other race weekend.

Everyone doubted Jimmie Johnson when the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase started. The No. 48 had been running well but hadn’t been finishing well. The month of August and the first part of September weren’t too kind to them. When the Chase started, the No. 48 flipped that magical switch that they seem to have. In the nine races to date, they have only had one finish out of the top 10.

I think they learned from stumbling the last two races of last year, and realize they gave that championship away. I don’t see history repeating itself in that form. I just don’t see them beating themselves. It really is going to have to be something catastrophic to happen early in the race to keep them from winning championship No. 6.

They have a championship swagger about them right now. They have a comfortable points lead with only this weekend’s race to go. It’s a very enviable position, and once again it is setting up to be historic. Remember, should Jimmie go on and win the championship as we all expect him to do Sunday, he becomes only the third driver in NASCAR’s entire history to win six or more championships. That is really some elite air he would share with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty.

COVER HIS TRACKS

Get to know what makes J.J. special. Check out his top racing accomplishments.

I know that haters want to say he wins too much and he is hurting the sport. I call bull crap on that. When you are a professional athlete, your job is to excel and try to reach the very top. If you don’t have that passion and commitment to beat your competition and be the best, then you need to find another profession.

We need to stop and realize we are witnessing history in the making. All the new fans that have come to the sport may never have seen Dale Jr. or King Richard win their seven championships. With the passing of time, those have become “back in the day” stories. Now, those of us who have been in the sport seemingly our entire lives and those fans that have just joined us the last handful of years get the rare opportunity to witness history in our sport.

Like I mentioned, I have had a blessed NASCAR career. I was on six championship teams with two different drivers over a span of 10 years. Winning isn’t easy. Winning is hard. Continuing to perform at the level is very hard and it takes a lot out of you. In my case, our team won three championships with Cale Yarborough, but then he decided he was leaving the team and going to a part-time racing schedule.

So for our team as a whole, it was a shot in the arm to prove to him that we could win races and championships without him. We did that with Darrell Waltrip. What’s really amazing with the No. 48 is they are sitting at the threshold of their sixth championship in eight years with the same driver. That’s not normal, folks. That is freakishly good. They are freakishly that good, and we all should take a moment Sunday and give them their due.
 

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