"Six-Time" meets "The Intimidator"
With his win number 76, Johnson has been placed in NASCAR’s most elite company. Only six drivers rank higher than Johnson in career victories. With this win also came another distinction – tying Dale Earnhardt for total Sprint Cup Series wins. While one could argue the two are polar opposites, Earnhardt’s cool, tough demeanor leading to aggressive driving on the track, while Johnson’s composed, SoCal laid back attitude producing a steady, calculated driver, their career’s actually mirror in each other in a number of ways…
-Both drivers made their first career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway at almost the same age: Dale in 1975 aged 24 (finishing 22nd, interestingly enough one spot ahead of his future team owner Richard Childress); Jimmie in 2001 aged 25 (finishing 39th after a crash that nearly collected his team co-owner, Jeff Gordon).
-They both won in their rookie season. Dale earned his first career win at age 28 in the 1979 Southeastern 500 at Bristol in his 16th start, winning $19,800. Jimmie grabbed his first checkered flag at age 25 in the 2002 NAPA Auto Parts 500 at his home track, California Speedway, in just his 13th career start, earning $176,750…Dale would have been jealous.
-Dale won races in 15 consecutive years (1982-1996) and Jimmie has now reached that same point, winning races in each of his 15 seasons in the Cup Series (2002-2016).
-Their most successful seasons both netted double digit wins, with Earnhardt winning 11 races in 1987 en route to a second consecutive championship (third overall), and Johnson won 10 races in 2007 en route to his own second straight championship.
-Both drivers have ten wins a piece at their most successful tracks, with Dale’s being Talladega and Jimmie’s being Dover.
-Dale is fifth on the list of most second place finishes with 70, and Jimmie currently sits 11th with 46.
-Their statistical similarities at the time of their 76th victories are remarkable, in particular in terms of percentages. Dale finished in the top five 42% of his races, while Jimmie has done so in 41%. Dale's top ten rate was 63%, Jimmie's is 62%. Dale led 13% of the laps he ran, Jimmie has led 12%. And finally Dale's win percentage was 11%, Jimmie's is 15%.
-A category in which Dale Earnhardt blows away ALL competition is at Daytona. As part of his record 34 total wins at the track, he won what is now the Sprint Unlimited six times (Jimmie has one win in this event), and he won a Daytona 500 qualifying race 12 times, including every one in the nineties for a staggering ten straight (Johnson has 2 wins). The only advantage Johnson holds over “Big E” are his two Daytona 500 wins to Dale’s one.
-In what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Dale drove in 136 races in which he won 21 times, while Jimmie ran 93 races and earned one win.
-Jimmie holds the record for All-Star Race victories with four, with Dale just below him with three.
-Both made guest appearances in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. In Dale’s lone start in 2001 he contributed to Corvette Racing’s podium finish, and in Jimmie’s seven starts he was a part of two podiums.
-Dale and Jimmie also competed in the IROC series, with Dale showing drivers from across all disciplines of racing how it’s done for 17 years, where he took home four titles and 11 wins. Jimmie competed for two seasons where he captured one win.
-Both drivers had long tenures with a single team. All of Jimmie’s wins have come behind the wheel of a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, while Dale captured 67 wins in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
-Chevy truly does run deep, as both drivers have combined to pull a “Bowtie” into victory lane 149 times (Dale won three times in a Bud Moore owned Ford). As a matter of fact, both drivers are certified Chevrolet dealers.
-Dale and Jimmie bookend the Hendrick Motorsports story. Jimmie of course took the organizations most recent checkered flag, and Dale Earnhardt captured Rick Hendrick’s first win as an owner when he won the 1983 NASCAR Budweiser Late Model Sportsman (now XFINITY) Series Mello Yello 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
-Finally, the number on everybody’s mind: Dale is tied with Richard Petty for the most championships in NASCAR history with seven. Jimmie is nipping at their heels with six.
Now that Jimmie has equaled “The Intimidator” he is in pursuit of his childhood hero, Cale Yarborough, who sits fifth on the all-time wins list with 83 victories. Let the countdown begin…