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Out of cadence early, Johnson back on milestone march

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Out of cadence early, Johnson back on milestone march

Johnson visited Victory Lane for the 69th time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.

Don’t look now, Earnhardt Nation, but Jimmie Johnson is snapping at the heels of your No. 1 hero.

That’s right. With his long-overdue victory at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Johnson visited Victory Lane for the 69th time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. That leaves him seven victories behind the late Dale Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time list.

All else being equal, Johnson could reach that milestone as early as next year.

Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, has already eclipsed Earnhardt’s win total. Gordon got his 77th victory in the 2007 spring race at Talladega Superspeedway, amid a shower of catcalls and beer cans.

Johnson almost certainly will follow. In 12-plus remarkable seasons of Sprint Cup racing, the six-time series champion has never failed to win multiple races in a single year. Only once, in 2011, has he won as few as two.

In a 2014 season that started slowly, the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet now has three victories, having won three of the last four races and putting to rest any fears that the 48 team might have “lost it.”

At this point, Johnson’s progress toward the next rung on the Sprint Cup ladder, Earnhardt’s 76 victories, seems inexorable. Ultimately, Johnson figures to knock Earnhardt down another notch on the career win list, to eighth.

But “Six-Time” would do well to learn a lesson from his teammate.

Just don’t do it at Talladega.

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service

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