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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NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

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CONCORD, N.C. —  NASCAR announced Tuesday that it will not permit drivers to run against the wall to gain speed as Ross Chastain did in last year’s Martinsville Cup playoff race.

NASCAR made the announcement in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

MORE: NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events 

MORE: NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023

Chastain drove into the Turn 3 wall and rode it around the track at higher speed than the rest of the field, passing five cars in the final two turns to gain enough spots to make the championship race. NASCAR allowed the move to stand even though some competitors had asked for a rule change leading into the season finale at Phoenix last year.

NASCAR is not adding a rule but stressed that Rule 10.5.2.6.A covers such situations.

That rule states: “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM. Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

NASCAR stated that the penalty for such a maneuver would be a lap or time penalty.

Chastain said he’s fine with being known for that move, which will never be repeated in NASCAR history.

“I’m proud that I’ve been able to make a wave that will continue beyond just 2022 or just beyond me,” Chastain told NBC Sports earlier this month about the move’s legacy. “There will be probably a day that people will learn about me because of that, and I’m good with that. I’m proud of it.

“I don’t think it will ever happen again. I don’t think it will ever pay the reward that it paid off for us that it did that day. I hope I’m around in 35 years to answer someone’s question about it. And I probably still won’t have a good answer on why it worked.”

The video of Chastain’s wall-hugging maneuver had 12.5 million views on the NBC Sports TikTok account within a week of it happening. Excluding the Olympics, the only other video that had had more views on the NBC Sports TikTok account to that point in 2022 was Rich Strike’s historic Kentucky Derby win. 

Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo all praised Chastain’s move at the time, joining a chorus of competitors throughout social media. 

NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

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NASCAR’s preseason non-points race, now known as the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, was born in 1979 with the idea of testing the sport’s fastest drivers and cars on one of racing’s fastest tracks — Daytona International Speedway.

The concept was driver vs. driver and car vs. car. No pit stops. Twenty laps (50 miles) on the Daytona oval, with speed and drafting skills the only factors in victory.

Originally, the field was made up of pole winners from the previous Cup season. In theory, this put the “fastest” drivers in the Clash field, and it also served as incentive for teams to approach qualifying with a bit more intensity. A spot in the Clash the next season meant extra dollars in the bank.

The race has evolved in crazy directions over the years, and no more so than last year when it was moved from its forever headquarters, the Daytona track, to a purpose-built short track inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Over the decades, virtually everything about the race changed in one way or another, including the race length, eligibility requirements, format, calendar dates, sponsorship and title. From 1979-2020, the race was held on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval and served as a sort of preview piece for the Daytona 500, scheduled a week later. In 2021, it moved to Daytona’s road course before departing for the West Coast last season.

Here’s a look at 10 historic moments in the history of the Clash:

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 2022 — Few races have been as anticipated as last year’s Clash at the Coliseum. After decades in Daytona Beach, NASCAR flipped the script in a big way and with a big gamble, putting its top drivers and cars on a tiny temporary track inside a football stadium. Joey Logano won, but that was almost a secondary fact. The race was a roaring success, opening the door for NASCAR to ponder similar projects.

2. 2008 — How would Dale Earnhardt Jr. handle his move from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports? The answer came quickly — in his first race. Junior led 46 of the 70 laps in winning what then was called the Budweiser Shootout, his debut for Hendrick. The biggest action occurred prior to the race in practice as Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled on — and off — the track. Both were called to the NASCAR trailer, where the incident reportedly accelerated. Both received six-race probations.

3. 2012 — One of the closest finishes in the history of the Clash occurred in a race that produced a rarity — Jeff Gordon’s car on its roof. Kyle Busch and Gordon made contact in Turn 4 on lap 74, sending Gordon into the wall, into a long slide and onto his roof. A caution sent the 80-lap race into overtime. Tony Stewart had the lead on the final lap, but Kyle Busch passed him as they roared down the trioval, winning the race by .013 of a second.

MORE: Surveying key race dates for 2023

4. 1984 — A race that stands out in Ricky Rudd’s career, and not in a fun way. Neil Bonnett won the sixth Clash, but the video highlights from the day center on Rudd’s 15th-lap crash. He lost control of his car in Turn 4 and turned sideways. As Rudd’s car left the track, it lifted off the surface and began a series of flips before landing on its wheels, very badly damaged. Safety crews removed Rudd from the car. He suffered a concussion, and his eyes were swollen such that he had to have them taped open so he could race a few days later in a Daytona 500 qualifier.

5. 1980 — The second Clash was won by Dale Earnhardt, one of Daytona International Speedway’s masters. This time he won in unusual circumstances. An Automobile Racing Club of America race often shared the race day with the Clash, and that was the case in 1980. The ARCA race start was delayed by weather, however, putting NASCAR and track officials in a difficult spot with the featured Clash also on the schedule and daylight running out. Officials made the unusual decision of stopping the ARCA race to allow the Clash to run on national television. After Earnhardt collected the Clash trophy, the ARCA race concluded.

6. 1994 — Twenty-two-year-old Jeff Gordon gave a hint of what was to come in his career by winning the 1994 Clash. Gordon would score his first Cup point win later that year in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, but he also dazzled in the Clash, making a slick three-wide move off Turn 2 with two laps to go to get by Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan. He held on to win the race.

7. 2006 — Upstart newcomer Denny Hamlin became the first rookie to win the Clash. Tony Stewart, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, had the lead with four laps to go, but a caution stacked the field and sent the race into overtime. Hamlin fired past Stewart, who had issues at Daytona throughout his career, on the restart and won the race.

8. 2004 — This one became the duel of the Dales. Dale Jarrett passed Dale Earnhardt on the final lap to win by .157 of a second. It was the only lap Jarrett led in the two-segment, 70-lap race.

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9. 1979 — The first Clash, designed by Anheuser-Busch to promote its Busch beer brand, drew a lot of attention because of its short length (20 laps) and its big payout ($50,000 to the winner). That paycheck looks small compared to the present, but it was a huge sum in 1979 and made the Clash one of the richest per-mile races in the world. Although the Clash field would be expanded in numerous ways over the years, the first race was limited to Cup pole winners from the previous season. Only nine drivers competed. Buddy Baker, almost always fast at Daytona, led 18 of the 20 laps and won by about a car length over Darrell Waltrip. The race took only 15 minutes.

10. 2020 — This seemed to be the Clash that nobody would win. Several huge accidents in the closing miles decimated the field. On the final restart, only six cars were in contention for the victory. Erik Jones, whose car had major front-end damage from his involvement in one of the accidents, won the race with help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who was one lap down in another damaged car but drafted behind Jones to push him to the win.