When Jimmie Johnson claimed his seventh Sprint Cup title last weekend at Homestead-Miami, it was also the record–extending 12th title for owner Rick Hendrick’s Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick has won four titles with Jeff Gordon and one with Terry Labonte to go with Johnson’s seven.
Hendrick was the first organization to win four consecutive championships, from 1995-98 (Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1997-98 with Labonte claiming the title in 1996). He became the first owner to win five consecutive championships when Johnson won his first five titles between 2006-2011. Beginning with Gordon’s first title in 1995 until Johnson’s title this season, Hendrick Motorsports has won 12 of the last 22 Sprint Cup championships, which makes the organization’s title-winning percentage during that span at 54.5 percent. Since Hendrick opened his operation in 1984, it has posted an all-time title-winning percentage of 36.4.
Johnson’s record-tying seven titles may be the result of some unmatched consistency that Hendrick has been able to provide to the driver since the team’s inception in 2001. Lowe’s has been Johnson’s only primary sponsor for 15 full seasons beginning in 2002, and was on his Chevy’s hood at Homestead-Miami when he tied Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers in NASCAR history to win seven titles. During this span, Johnson has made 80 trips to victory lane including two wins in the Daytona 500.
Along with the long-term relationship between Lowe’s and Johnson, Hendrick has also been able to keep the driver paired with Chad Knaus as his crew chief. In the 15 years that the two have been together in addition to their seven titles, the pair has posted an average finish of 3.4 in the championship standings.
Knaus’s seven series titles as a crew chief puts him second on the all-time list of crew chief title wins, one behind Richard Petty’s longtime crew chief and NASCAR Hall of Famer, Dale Inman. When it comes to winning titles in a row as a crew chief, Knaus stands alone, as he is the only crew chief to win more than two Cup titles in a row. His five consecutive titles with Johnson seems to be one of the few NASCAR records that may never be broken as in the first three years of the current Chase format there have been three different winners.
Only one other person at Hendrick Motorsports has been with Johnson-Knaus since the team was put together. Car Chief Ron Malec started working with Johnson while he was still competing in the ASA Series. He came to Hendrick with Johnson when he made the move and now is the car chief who is responsible for the entire crew both in the shop and at each stop on the schedule. His primary responsiblity once the team gets to the track is to make sure that the car passes inspection.
PIT NOTES: Chevrolet enjoyed its championship with Johnson, but it was Toyota that won its first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series manufacturer’s championship. Like the driver’s championship, the manufacturer’s title is a season-long points battle with points being awarded to each of the three manufacturers according to where its highest finishing driver lands.
Toyota’s Camry won 16 of the 36 races with Joe Gibbs Racing leading the way with 12 wins followed by Furniture Row Racing with four. Gibbs’s Kyle Busch and Furniture Rowe’s Martin Truex Jr. led all Camry drivers with four wins each followed by Gibbs’s drivers Carl Edwards (3), Denny Hamlin (2) and Matt Kenseth (2). Toyota completely dominated all three series as it also won the title in the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch Motorsports winning the manufacturer title in the Camping World Truck Series.