Among the features of Jimmie Johnson’s south Charlotte home is a spacious “man cave,” a spot where he displays the dozens of trophies he has won as the dominant NASCAR Sprint Cup driver of his time.
Johnson has cleared space over the room’s bar for several distinctive trophies from Dover International Speedway – a ferocious-looking statuette of the track’s “Miles The Monster” mascot.
“I have a great man cave,” Johnson said. “(The Dover trophies) stand out. They certainly draw a lot of attention.”
The number of Dover trophies in the man cave is now up to nine after Johnson dominated the field Sunday in the FedEx 400, his second consecutive victory of the season and one that only further solidifies him as a favorite to win a seventh Cup championship.
Johnson, who dominated the field for much of the sunny, warm afternoon, beat runner-up and pole-winner by Brad Keselowski by 0.885 seconds. The margin of victory would likely have been larger had a debris caution on Lap 394 not forced a late restart four laps from the end. Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
The race was halted when a chunk of concrete was dislodged from the track surface and hit the car of Jamie McMurray. It took workers 22 minutes to fill the hole.
The race also produced a new points leader in Kenseth, who leads Jeff Gordon (who was 15th) by a scant two points.
But the day belonged to Johnson, who was answering questions last weekend in Charlotte prior to the Coca-Cola 600 about a season to that point was without a win.
Now, after winning in Charlotte and Dover – and with another one of his and crew chief Chad Knaus’ favorite tracks (Pocono) coming up next on the schedule – the question becomes: What can stop Johnson now?
“We can get on a roll,” Johnson said. “We have some good tracks ahead of us, the kind that can really build momentum for teams and drivers. Charlotte is a good track for us. Dover is good for us. Pocono is Chad’s favorite.”
It took Johnson nearly a third of the season to get warmed up for a variety of reasons. One might be the hernia surgery he underwent in November, a procedure he first spoke publicly about after the race.
After noticing three small protrusions in his abdomen, Johnson had the surgery the day after the NASCAR postseason awards banquet in Las Vegas.
Johnson said it took 10 days to recover, and he missed one off-season test session because of it. But two other tests that were canceled because of bad weather also set his No. 48 Chevy team back as it went into the 2014 season.
More than that, though, was how the effort Johnson’s team put on winning last season’s title didn’t allow he or Knaus to think much about 2014.
“When you’re fortunate enough to battle for a championship, that’s what you’re focusing on,” said Knaus, who has been with Johnson for all six of them. “We were pursuing the 2013 championship and we lost focus on ’14. That’s just inherent when you’re going for a championship.”
Knaus said the team, using all the resources available at Hendrick Motorsports, pulled together.
“When you get a pinch behind, everybody digs really hard, from chassis to engines,” said Knaus. “When you do that, you start to hit your stride and things start to culminate and you can really make things happen.”
Does that mean the Johnson, Knaus and crew are where they want to be?
“No,” Knaus said. “We’re still behind on a little bit of everything.”
So there’s room for improvement. And more trophies in the man cave.