Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports championship notes

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Jimmie Johnson is a seven-time NASCAR champion. Rick Hendrick is now the owner of 12 championship titles.

Per Hendrick Motorsports, here are some championship nuggets:

  • Jimmie Johnson earned a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with his first-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He joined NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty as the only drivers in history to win seven Cup titles and became the first driver to do it since Earnhardt in 1994. Johnson’s former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon ranks fourth all-time with four Cup championships.
  • Johnson’s title is the 12th for Hendrick Motorsports and car owner Rick Hendrick, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January. Hendrick is the all-time leader in Sprint Cup owner championships (12) and along with Joe Gibbs are the only owners to win titles with three different drivers: Johnson (7), Gordon (4) and Terry Labonte for Hendrick and Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart (2) and Kyle Busch for Gibbs. Hendrick has 245 Cup-level race wins as an owner, ranking second all-time and first in NASCAR’s modern era.
  • The 2016 Sprint Cup car owner championship is the 15th for Hendrick Motorsports across NASCAR’s three national series, extending the team’s all-time record. Richard Childress Racing ranks second among owners with 12 combined titles. In the car owner category, Hendrick Motorsports has won 12 titles in the Sprint Cup Series and three in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Hendrick Motorsports also won a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship in 2003, giving the organization 16 total national series titles.
  • Lowe’s has been the No. 48 team’s primary sponsor since its inception in 2001. Lowe’s has also been Johnson’s only primary sponsor in his 15 full seasons (2002-2016), encompassing all seven Sprint Cup championships, 80 race victories and numerous milestones, including two wins in the Daytona 500 and four in the Brickyard 400. Hendrick Motorsports’ relationship with Lowe’s is one of the longest-running driver-team-sponsor partnerships in NASCAR history.
  • With seven career Sprint Cup championships, crew chief Chad Knaus ranks second all-time behind only NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman, who earned eight Cup titles as a crew chief. Knaus is now one of only two crew chiefs (the other being Inman) to win seven titles with one team and driver, and he holds the distinction of being the only crew chief to win more than two Cup titles in a row, a feat he accomplished when he coached the No. 48 team to five straight from 2006-2010.
  • Knaus has led the No. 48 team since Johnson’s 2002 rookie year in the Sprint Cup Series. In that 15-season span, he and Johnson have won seven titles and posted an average finish of 3.4 in the championship standings.
  • Johnson began using the hashtag #se7en as a tribute to Ricky Hendrick, the late son of car owner Rick Hendrick. Early in his racing career, Ricky Hendrick drove a No. 7 car and later a No. 17, and he developed a habit of writing out the number with a “7” in place of the letter “V.”
  • At 41 years old, Johnson is the youngest driver to win seven Sprint Cup championships. Petty earned his seventh title in 1979 at age 42, a little more than two months after Johnson was born. Earnhardt was 44 when he won his seventh title in 1994.
  • Johnson’s seventh championship came 10 seasons after his first title win (2006). That marks the shortest period of time between the first and seventh title in history. Petty’s final championship came in 1979, 15 seasons after his first title win (1964), and Earnhardt earned his seventh championship in 1994, 14 seasons after his first (1980).
  • Hendrick Motorsports has tallied 245 victories in 33 seasons, a figure that leads all teams in NASCAR’s modern era and ranks second all-time behind Petty Enterprises (268 wins). This season, Hendrick Motorsports posted five victories (all by Jimmie Johnson). Hendrick Motorsports has been with manufacturer Chevrolet since its inaugural season in 1984.
  • In the major American professional sports leagues, Hendrick Motorsports’ 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships are seventh all-time behind the New York Yankees (27 World Series titles), Montreal Canadiens (24 Stanley Cup titles), Boston Celtics (17 NBA titles), Los Angeles Lakers (16 NBA titles), Toronto Maple Leafs (13 Stanley Cup titles) and Green Bay Packers (13 NFL championships).
  • Hendrick Motorsports is the most efficient championship team in major American professional sports, earning 12 titles since its inception in 1984 for a 36.4 percent all-time title-winning percentage. The Boston Celtics rank second with 17 NBA titles in 70 seasons (24.3 percent), while the New York Yankees rank third with 27 World Series championships in 116 seasons (23.3 percent). The Los Angeles Lakers rank fourth with 16 NBA titles in 69 seasons (23.2 percent) and the Montreal Canadiens are fifth with 24 Stanley Cup titles in 107 seasons (22.4 percent). Hendrick Motorsports has won 12 of the last 22 Sprint Cup championships (1995-2016), putting the team’s title-winning percentage during that span at 54.5.
  • No other major American professional sports team has earned more championships than Hendrick Motorsports since 1984, the organization’s inaugural season. In that time, the Los Angeles Lakers have earned eight NBA championships and the Chicago Bulls have recorded six. The New York Yankees, San Antonio Spurs and Edmonton Oilers have tallied five titles apiece since 1984.
  • Along with Johnson and Knaus, car chief Ron Malec has been on the No. 48 Lowe’s team road crew for all seven championships. Malec started working as a mechanic with Johnson in the ASA Series in the late 1990s. When Johnson joined Hendrick Motorsports, Malec came on board. As car chief, he manages the crew members who work on the car both at the team facility in Concord, North Carolina, and during each race weekend. He is responsible for the preparation of the race car and seeing it through technical inspection.
  • Prior to Johnson’s run of five consecutive Sprint Cup titles from 2006-2010, Hendrick Motorsports scored four in a row from 1995-1998 with Gordon (1995, 1997 and 1998) and Labonte (1996). No other organization has won more than three Sprint Cup championships in consecutive seasons.
  • Hendrick Motorsports has never run a Sprint Cup season without winning a pole position, recording at least one for 33 consecutive years (1984-2016). The team scored four in 2016, including one from Johnson, one from substitute driver Alex Bowman and two from Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Chase Elliott.
  • Hendrick Motorsports has posted at least one Cup-level win in 31 straight seasons, the longest active streak in NASCAR. The streak began Feb. 16, 1986, when Geoff Bodine won Hendrick Motorsports’ first Daytona 500.
  • In 2016, Hendrick Motorsports amassed five wins, four pole positions, 28 top-five finishes, 56 top-10s and 1,355 laps led. The five wins came at five different tracks — Atlanta, Fontana, Charlotte, Martinsville and Homestead. The win at Martinsville propelled Johnson to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he won the organization’s 12th Sprint Cup Series championship.

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Roger Penske was ready for his close-up in popular commercial

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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MONTEREY, California – Roger Penske is the only team owner in auto racing history who has 18 “Baby Borg” Trophies in his possession for his team’s record 18 wins in the Indianapolis 500.

Perhaps his next trophy should be an Emmy.

Penske took part in a commercial along with 103rd Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and one of his NASCAR Cup drivers, Ryan Blaney. The commercial was shot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 7 while NASCAR was in town for the Brickyard 400.

The premise of the commercials is a takeoff on the 2006 comedy, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with Blaney playing the Ricky Bobby role and Pagenaud playing the Jean Girard role.

The commercial was shot by NBC to promote its coverage of the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series and concludes with Penske stepping in between the two drivers, demanding them to, “Go out there and win races.”

Penske delivered the line perfectly and in just three takes.

“It took me about five minutes,” Penske told NBCSports.com. “They made it very easy for me. We let the guys do all of the hard work. It was fun for me to do. I saw it, and I didn’t make a fool out of myself.

“I’m ready for the next commercial.”

Penske’s ability to deliver his lines perfectly impressed NBC Sports Group President of Programing Jon Miller.

“I assume he’s got his SAG card,” Miller told NBCSports.com. “He has certainly been in front of the camera enough, and he’s quite an ambassador for the sport, so we were not at all surprised by that.”

NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood was also highly impressed with Penske’s ability to turn into an actor in front of the camera.

“We were thrilled that he agreed to do it,” Flood told NBC Sports.com. “It’s one of those special things and the kind of guy he is to jump on board and make it even bigger because we had a ‘Plan B’ if Roger couldn’t do it, and when we got the confirmation, we knew we had something special that was going to happen.

“Roger Penske did the ad with two of his drivers that we shot at the Brickyard last week that got out there. A lot of fun, a lot of great response to it, and that’s things we couldn’t have done in the past. I think that’s part of us leaning in as NBC in trying to grow all of motorsports, and it’s important that every form of racing gets attention, and that’s what we’re pushing, as you know all too well.”

Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, who will take a 41-point lead over Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi into Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix, also was complimentary of his team owner.

“Wow, I was impressed,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com. “First of all, how did they get him to do a cameo? That was cool. And he nailed it.

“The pressure on Simon and Blaney to nail it, after Roger does it in only three takes? Wow, the pressure was really on them to deliver their lines.”

Pagenaud thought Penske’s first take was the best.

“It didn’t take long for Roger to deliver his line, he was on top of it,” Pagenaud told NBCSports.com. “NBCSN was very excited about the idea. IndyCar CEO Mark Miles made sure we were able to get into Gasoline Alley early that day. It was the Saturday of the Brickyard 400 and it was early, but Roger was probably up since 2 a.m. I’m sure, so it wasn’t early for him.

“It was good, the script was fun and well done. I forced my French and Blaney being the perfect American NASCAR driver and Roger just being himself was just perfect. It shows personality between NASCAR and INDYCAR. NBC is doing such a great job showing both fans on both sides what is going in and it helps everybody get interested in both sports.”

Penske was asked if that is how he normally talks to his drivers in a prerace situation to fire them up.

“That’s not the normal, daily message, but that’s how it helped those two guys get going,” Penske said. “I think NBC has done a great job in all cases on IndyCar. The continuity of having the same partner has made a huge difference. The talent knows the drivers. They know the situation. Guys like Paul Tracy and the experience of Leigh Diffey and the whole group has done a great job.

“It’s about good racing. We have good teams. Lots of competition, new drivers and date equity. And it’s attracting young people.”

Penske believes the addition of NBC Sports to the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, including the season’s final race on the NBC, has been a big boost to the series.

“Any time you are on network is great,” Penske said. “It’s great for the sponsors, the notoriety for the team and the drivers is very important for all of us as we finish up the season. It’s going to be a great weekend, and I hope we can continue the movement we’ve had and the momentum we’ve had coming up to the last weekend.”

Richmond winners and losers

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WINNERS

Joe Gibbs Racing — It was a 1-2-3-4 finish until Erik Jones’ car failed inspection. Still the team scored a 1-2-3 finish and claimed its fourth consecutive win on a short track with Martin Truex Jr.’s triumph. Don’t forget, the organization also won Friday’s Xfinity race with Christopher Bell.

Ryan Newman His fifth-place finish tied his best result of the year and was his third consecutive top-10 showing. He was encouraged by the team running toward the front and noted: “You take away those four Gibbs cars, we were racing for the win. I know it doesn’t work that way, but if they would have had one bad meeting (incident) we would’ve been in the hunt.” Still, Newman moved into a transfer spot heading into this coming weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Brad KeselowskiHe finished fourth and was the only driver outside of Joe Gibbs Racing to lead Saturday’s race.

Bubba Wallace His 12th-place finish was his third top-15 result in the last five races. He had one top-15 finish in the first 23 races of the season.

Front Row Motorsports — All three of its cars placed 21st or better, the first time the team has accomplished that feat this season. David Ragan was 19th, rookie Matt Tifft placed 20th and Michael McDowell was 21st.

LOSERS

Erik Jones He was feeling good about his fourth-place finish that put him within three points of the final transfer spot to the next round only to later find out that his car was disqualified for failing inspection after the race. Now he’s 45 points out of the final transfer spot and is essentially in a must-win situation. He faces being eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for a second year in a row.

William Byron Got lapped in the final circuits before the end of each stage and also had a pit road speeding penalty. That led to a season-worst 25th-place finish. He holds the final transfer spot to the second round by two points on Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman heading to the Roval.

Brad Keselowski bumped up to fourth, but JGR domination still ‘not good news’

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Brad Keselowski ended Saturday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Richmond Raceway with what he thought was a fifth-place finish.

About an hour later though, Keselowski was moved up one position to fourth place after original fourth-place finisher Erik Jones was disqualified after his car failed post-race inspection.

Still, gaining one extra finishing position didn’t make the 2012 NASCAR Cup champion happy because of Joe Gibbs Racing’s domination in the second race of the playoffs – even with Jones’ DQ.

(How JGR finished is) definitely not good news,” Keselowski said. “We’ve got work to do. (JGR is) really strong and we’re not where we need to be to be able to beat them heads-up, but we threw everything we had at them.

We put down a great qualifying lap, got the first pit stall, had great pit stops and got to the lead, but just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. completes Richmond sweep with playoff win

MORE: Results, points after 2nd race of Cup playoffs at Richmond

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

Keselowski tweeted a few hours after the race that he didn’t “take no pleasure & seek no treasure from another man’s loss,” referring to Jones’ DQ.


Even so, Keselowski took some consolation from his overall performance.

We led 80-some laps, so it’s not a bad day but just not nearly fast enough to dominate the race and win,” he said.

Keselowski mistakenly said in a post-race interview that he had joined Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in advancing to the Round of 12 two weeks from now due to his points in the standings.

Yeah, we’re locked into the next round,” Keselowski said. “That feels good. I’m proud of that effort.”

Actually, Keselowski left Richmond two points shy of being locked into the next playoff round. That will have to come next Sunday at Charlotte’s Roval.

There’s still work to do not only for Keselowski’s car, but also those of his teammates — Joey Logano finished 11th and Ryan Blaney 17th — to counter JGR’s domination.

But what exactly has to be done is a question mark, Keselowski said.

Honestly, I don’t know,” Keselowski said. “They’ve got all the secrets so we need to find some more secrets.”

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Kyle Busch sees progress in runner-up finish at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. — After his fiery comments last week led some to be critical of his attitude toward slower drivers, Kyle Busch was calmer after his runner-up performance to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Busch led a race-high 202 of 400 laps but lost the lead to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate with 26 laps to go and had to settle for second place.

“We put up a valiant effort,” Busch said.

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car

While his winless drought starched to 14 races, Busch noted that the performance was a step forward for the No. 18 Toyota team.

“I know we’re capable of it, the team is capable of it,” said Busch, who clinched a spot in the second round with his 54-point night. “Just stupid things have been biting us this year and we put it all together tonight. I didn’t speed on pit road, pit crew did a good job, our car was fast and we made the most of our effort.”

Whether it was Busch hitting the wall (or another car) at Las Vegas, an engine failure at Indianapolis, the pit crew losing the lead at Darlington or a speeding penalty at Watkins Glen (and hitting cars), Busch and the team have been off in recent races despite often having the speed to challenge for wins. In the process, Busch has lost the chance to collect many more playoff points.

He was strong enough Saturday night to win the second stage, giving him his third stage win in the last seven races.

But Busch didn’t have enough at the end to keep Truex behind him.

“We ran OK,” Busch said. “(Truex) could follow closer than I could, and he was better on the long run than I was. Why? Maybe I pushed my tires too hard there at the last stint at the beginning trying to stay ahead of (Denny Hamlin), which gave (Truex) the opportunity to kind of save his stuff and roll around and attack later.”