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  Jimmie Johnson
Car number: 48 • Manufacturer: Chevy • Sponsor: Lowe's
Owner: Rick Hendrick/Jeff Gordon • Team: Hendrick Motorsports • Crew Chief: Chad Knaus

Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
2006 Season
Final Points Standing1st
After First 26 Races2nd
Top 513
Laps Led854
Lead Lap Finishes30
Bonus Points100
Races Led18
2007 Spin
Last season, we asked if all the near-misses this team had endured had taken their toll. Could Team Lowe's win the Cup after being so painfully close on four straight occasions?

Jimmie Johnson and his team sure answered that question. Of course, it was always a matter of when, and not if. Now it is a question of how many. All the pieces remain in place for this bunch. Is it a stretch to believe the Lowe's team could go back-to-back? Knaus, Johnson and Lowe's are inked to deals that will keep them together at Hendrick through the 2010 season. It's absurd to think a team in its prime can't win another Cup -- if not two -- in the next four years.

The Hendrick organization shouldn't have too much of a problem with the Car of Tomorrow, either. A deep company with the resources and manpower to match the desire is a potent recipe. Throw in a dash of talent (Johnson) and watch chef Chad Knaus work his magic in the kitchen.

Speaking of Knaus, he and Johnson comprise the deadliest crew chief/driver combo on the circuit. Their greatest strength is relaying information throughout the race, resulting in solid top 15 runs on even the gloomiest of days.

While it's hard to imagine another dream season like the one witnessed last year, don't expect much of a dropoff. Johnson's ability to run well on most any type of track will keep this bunch near the top of the heap well into the Chase.

Having good friend and new teammate Casey Mears on board at Hendrick Motorsports will only help Johnson as well. The only red flag to look for is the dreaded slump. Team Lowe's has dug itself in holes before, and while Johnson was able to climb out of one last season, it is nearly impossible to duplicate such a run.

2006 Recap
Jimmie Johnson, the points leader for 25 weeks throughout the season, persevered during a minefield of a playoff stretch to nab his first NASCAR championship. Johnson -- dare we say the Bobby Allison of his generation, or is four missed opportunities not enough? -- blistered the circuit to the tune of six consecutive top 10s (five of those top 2 runs) in the season's final six weeks to force the field into submission and claim his first career NASCAR championship.

Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus, engineer Darian Grubb, team owner Rick Hendrick and Team Lowe's capped what was already a stellar season -- a season that witnessed wins in the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and the All-Star race at Lowe's -- with a well-deserved title. The most complete team throughout the year, it survived Knaus' Daytona suspension, a nine-race late-summer hiccup that saw them average an 18.2-place finish, and a 165-point deficit in the Chase's third week only to regroup to average a third-place finish over the season's final six weeks en route to the championship.

The Good: In the first Dover event, Jimmie Johnson spun in qualifying and started 42nd. In the race, he was two laps down but, as usual, Johnson and Chad Knaus persevered to finish sixth.

The Bad: In the first race of the Chase, Johnson lost a cylinder early, then crashed on lap 88. He was in a hole -- and still digging -- leaving New Hampshire.

The Ugly: Johnson made a rare mistake at Daytona in July. He wrecked Bobby Labonte and ruined his own day in the mishap. Labonte finished 42nd while Johnson limped home 32nd.

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