Posted: Monday August 7, 2006 12:26AM; Updated: Monday August 7, 2006 12:49PM
Johnson's Brickyard win was his fourth victory of the season and the 22nd of his career.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Johnson has taken a more philosophical point of view after attending other sporting events. An Atlanta Braves fan, he attended a game in April and loudly booed the visiting New York Mets. "Once that clicked in my mind, I'm like, That's all that it is -- you root for your guy," he explained.
When you add up Johnson's victories this season, combined with his points lead, you really have to give credit where credit is due.
"I think the accomplishments that we've been able to have as a race team -- and we might not have all the fans out there, the majority of the fans, that's not what I'm after -- it's about respect," Johnson says. "I think what we've been able to accomplish, the way we've carried ourselves, how we've handled things, I think that we're gaining more and more respect. That's all I can ask for."
Recalling Johnson's problems, Hendrick said: "I think Jimmie has done a fantastic job of racing people, you know, good and clean and running, winning without having to run over them. I think [there were] a couple of accidents, you know, superspeedways that he got a bad rub, and then that kind of carried on a little bit."
One would expect Hendrick to view those moments in the most positive light. But he's also seen a change in Johnson's attitude, which could make a difference and lead to his first Nextel Cup title. Says Hendrick, "I see a big change [in Johnson] walking into the garage now, looking at the fans in the stands and wearing the shirts and looking at the support he's getting. I think he's earned that respect from not only the drivers, but I think the race fans see how competitive it is out there."
Kenseth admits that the No. 48 team is the target: "In my opinion, they've really been the team to beat for four years. They've been strong almost all the time. [Johnson] and Chad work well together and get it figured out."
Remember, this is the same guy who got tagged by Johnson's teammate (and co-team owner) Jeff Gordon. If a former Nextel Cup champion has respect for Johnson, shouldn't you?