KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In all fairness to Jimmie Johnson's run of five straight championships, if you were to say "the streak" when talking about NASCAR, we all know what's going to pop into the majority of NASCAR fans minds: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s winless drought.
The streak still lives, by the way. It's at 136 races and counting and has led to every Junior joke and one-liner imaginable. But through it all, Junior still maintains that he's the best. Yes, and that includes the five-time champion.
"No, he's a hell of a race car driver, but I feel like I'm the best," Junior said on Friday. "I think that's the way you have to feel. I feel that I'm smarter than everybody and I can drive better than everybody and I know a lot of people ain't going to agree with that, but I feel pretty strong about it."
Given his performance this year, he should. Junior is tied for second in the points standings, and as we said earlier this year, a win is very very close.
And honestly, it may be more noteworthy if Junior said that he wasn't the best. It's an essential attribute to have for a driver — you can't win a championship, let alone a race, unless you feel you're capable of doing so. Junior does say that there is a hierarchy at Hendrick Motorsports, but that it's about tenure.
"There is a bit of a pecking order and it really comes down to what you've done lately," Junior said. "I think that Jimmie and Jeff [Gordon] will always carry a certain role in that company that I will probably never achieve just due to them being there that long and having that trust build up with Rick [Hendrick] and all the employees there and their accomplishments obviously. I've never felt that was a disadvantage to me. I felt like I have everything they have. I've had the same opportunity and I've never really felt like Jimmie's car was better than mine or his team was better than mine or somebody was getting something I wasn't getting. I've never really had that feeling because everything there is just so good."