Before Jimmie Johnson was ever a Sprint Cup champion, much less a six-time champion, he was simply looking to make a name for himself at NASCAR’s highest level.
Ten years ago during the 2005 Coca-Cola 600 on May 29, Johnson did just that.
Sure, Johnson had already won races and competed for championships. He finished second in point the two years prior and collected 14 total wins in his first three full-time seasons. It wasn’t so much winning, but more about who he beat.
After battling for position during the final laps, it appeared Johnson wasn’t going to catch Bobby Labonte. The 2000 Cup champion held off every advance on the inside from Johnson and had the lead heading down the final stretch. With the checkered flag about to wave, Larry McReynolds even said, “I don’t think he can do it!”
Then Johnson did. In one of the most impressive finishes in his young career, the Hendrick driver took down Labonte on the outside and drove to Victory Lane. Labonte, 41 at the time, would never go on to win another race, with the 2005 Coke 600 considered his last real shot at a win.
Meanwhile, Johnson was already on a roll at CMS and captured his third straight win in the spring at the track. Ironically enough, he’s also the defending winner of the Coca-Cola 600 coming into this Sunday’s race.
One of these days, another young competitor will likely do the same to Johnson to have the torch passed. But with three wins already this season and a championship just two years ago, don’t expect Six-Time to slow down anytime soon.
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