Two years removed from running off five straight Sprint Cup championships, Jimmie Johnson is ready to start a new streak.
While this statement wouldn't have exactly been considered going out on a limb prior to the start of the race year, it's even further from that status now that he came out and won the Daytona 500.
Last Sunday, Johnson claimed his second Daytona win.
He last won the Great American Race in 2006. In recent years, he had found nothing but struggles.
Last year, Johnson finished just one lap in the Daytona 500. Despite the bad start, Johnson rallied to wind up in the thick of the Chase before finishing in third place.
This year, he and his team showed up ready to dominate from the first week. This is a bad sign for any other team hoping to claim the Sprint Cup this season.
At age 37, Johnson's realistic window to win championships is closing, and he's stalled out on five championships. While that puts him in elite company, you know this competitive driver has his eye on the two men in front of him: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt both have seven.
Johnson need look no further than teammate Jeff Gordon to see how the championship window can quickly close. Gordon, who is fourth on the Cup championship list, won his four titles between 1995 and 2001, and has come up dry ever since.
This is not to say Gordon can't win another, simply that Johnson can't let another year go by without a championship if he wants to hang with the big boys.
Johnson knows he has to seize his present opportunity, and he isn't going to have to do it alone. The powerful Hendrick Motorsports team will make sure he's in a good car.
With the new Generation-6 cars in their debut season, a team's ability to modify a ride from week in and week out will be highlighted.
This is going to be a trial and error process as everyone learns how these cars handle from the restrictor plate races to the bunched craziness of the short tracks.
With all of the talent and resources available at Hendricks, other teams will simply be trying to keep up.
This gives Johnson an even bigger edge, and the five-time champion didn't need one to begin with.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!