Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Can Johnson make it five in a row?
By Tom McKean ESPN.com
Jimmie Johnson got the red-carpet treatment when he visited with President Barack Obama at the White House in August.
We have introduced you to Sebastien Bourdais and Sam Hornish Jr. as we roll out the nine candidates for ESPN.com's Driver of the Decade -- in alphabetical order -- over the next two weeks. Our panel of experts has voted for its top drivers. You will get your turn when we stage a SportsNation fan vote on Jan. 8.
The Driver of the Decade will be revealed on Jan. 11.
Meet candidate No. 3
First driver to win four straight Cup titles, 2006-09
His 47 Cup wins this decade lead all drivers
Since 2002, no one has led more laps than Johnson
Is the only driver to win four or more consecutive races this decade
Chase's all-time leader in wins
Has finished in top five in points in each of his eight full-time Cup seasons
Named 2009 Male Athlete of Year by The Associated Press
Before reading about any of Johnson's accomplishments this decade, consider this: His first full season in Sprint Cup wasn't until 2002. With that in mind, Johnson leads all drivers this decade in wins (47) and titles (four), including four straight championships between 2006 and 2009.
Among drivers with a minimum of 50 Cup starts since 2000, his 11th-place average finish this decade is tops. Since 2002, no driver has led more laps than Johnson.
Johnson was the 2006 Daytona 500 winner and became the only driver this decade to win the Great American Race and the Sprint Cup title in the same season. He also has multiple wins at 12 different tracks on the circuit.
Johnson is also the only driver to win four or more consecutive races in a season during the 2000s. Perhaps crew chief Chad Knaus deserves some credit; after all, the two are the longest-paired active driver-crew chief duo in Sprint Cup.
Since the Chase was created, Johnson also has dominated the most when it truly counts. He's the Chase's all-time leader in wins, top-5s, top-10s, average finish and laps led. Johnson also has finished among the top five in points in each of his full eight seasons in Sprint Cup competition.
Meet the nine Driver of the Decade contenders, who are being revealed one at a time ...
• Monday: Sebastien Bourdais
• Tuesday: Sam Hornish Jr.
• Wednesday: Jimmie Johnson
• Coming Thursday: Tom Kristensen Tom McKean is a studio researcher at ESPN.