Dale Earnhardt Jr. is rooting for Jimmie Johnson to prevail in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and win a seventh championship, NASCAR's most popular personality disclosed Monday.
Johnson and Earnhardt are Hendrick Motorsports teammates, and if Johnson were to win a seventh title he would then share the NASCAR record with Earnhardt's father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Richard Petty. That accomplishment is something Earnhardt Jr. would like to Johnson achieve.
"To be quite honest, yes, I am pulling for Jimmie to get this championship and I believe he does deserve it," Earnhardt said on The Dale Jr. Download." ... He wants that so badly. We've had a few conversations about that. I know how much that would mean to him."
Johnson won his 78th career race Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the first event of the second Chase round, which automatically transfers him to the semifinal bracket. Johnson's victory total is two ahead of Earnhardt's career mark, and he ranks seventh overall on the all-time list.
The 41-year-old Johnson is the only driver to win five consecutive championships (2006-2010), and he added a sixth in 2013. Earnhardt Jr. believes a seventh title would further solidify Johnson's status as one of NASCAR's all-time great.
"Obviously to win five championships in a row is unbelievable and the argument is undeniable that he is one of the greatest," Earnhardt said. "He ranks right up there with the old man, anyone else you want to put in that conversation. I believe he does deserve it after everything he's put into the sport. I think it would be good for him to go ahead and win that championship."
Earnhardt is continuing to recover from a concussion sustained June 12 when he crashed at Michigan International Speedway, and has not raced since July 9 at Kentucky Speedway. He is targeting a return for the start of the 2017 season, which begins with the Daytona 500 in February.
While appearing on the weekly podcast, Earnhardt said he will attend all but one of the six remaining races this season where he will assist the No. 88 team. Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon have been substituting for Earnhardt during his absence.
Bowman qualified a career-best second at Charlotte, but cut a tire and crashed out of the race on Lap 61. He finished 39th.
"I'm having fun going to the races," Earnhardt said. "... It's great to go down to the grid and wish the team good luck and it was even, as unfortunate as the accident was, it was fun to help them sort things out and load the car up after it was over with.
"I just like being a part of it and feeling like a part of the family."