The next NASCAR record Jimmie Johnson will likely pass is Dale Earnhardt’s win total.
With his win last weekend at Dover, Johnson has 74 career Sprint Cup victories, leaving him two away from tying Earnhardt’s 76 career wins, which is seventh on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.
“I certainly hope to have that opportunity to tie him and the competitor in me, of course, would like to move past that and chase down the next guy (Cale Yarborough, 83 wins). “I remember and had the great fortune like everybody here, to watch Jeff Gordon tie that monumental record (of Earnhardt’s). I know how much it meant to Jeff.”
Johnson’s first career Sprint Cup race was in October 2001 at Charlotte, eight months after Earnhardt was killed in a crash at the season-opening Daytona 500. Johnson admits there’s a “void … in my mind and my career” that he didn’t get to race Earnhardt.
“I did meet him a couple of times and he did a fantastic job of intimidating me and scaring the you-know-what out of me in both those instances.
“So, if (passing Earnhardt on the wins list) does happen, I of course want to handle it in the right way and pay tribute to Dale and what he’s done for our sport, the true bad-ass he was in our sport.”
Gordon is third on NASCAR’s all-time wins list with 92 victories. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty has the most with 200, while David Pearson is second with 105.
Gordon reflected Friday on what it meant to race against Earnhardt, as well as Johnson closing in on Earnhardt’s mark.
“Having the opportunity to race with Dale and know his great impact on the sport, how tough he was as a competitor and how much races he won, it overwhelmed me that I ever got to that mark,” Gordon said. “To me, when I first started following the sport, it seemed like he was winning everything and had done it for a long, long time.
“Jimmie, it’s just a matter of time for him. This will be just one of the many records he continues to break and surpass and putting his name in the record books as one of the all-time greats.”
“It’s hard to put it into perspective when you didn’t get much of an opportunity to race against somebody like Dale. But I know how much it meant to me, to know him as a friend and competitor. But Jimmie’s got a great sense of the sport, what he’s doing and how much it means to him. I know that something like that will mean a lot to him, as well, and I hope he gets the proper respect when that day happens.”