DOVER, Del. – Jimmie Johnson 's NASCAR premier series career is a story of numbers. Wins? He's at 74 and counting, eighth most in the series and second among active drivers. Championships? Six, trailing only the seven won by NASCAR Hall of Fame members Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Second-place finishes? He's got 46 of those, also second most among active participants. The only item that Johnson can't put a number on involves retirement. "No, I do not have a number and I have not picked a number," Johnson said Friday at Dover International Speedway , site of Sunday's AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). "As a kid growing up racing and as I got in the sport, I didn't say 'when I get to this age, I'm going to step down.' I haven't had that conversation and have not picked a number with my wife and said, 'OK honey, this is the point that I am going to stop.' It's really based on feel, and I have Chani's support on that as well. "When I feel like it's time, I am going to make that decision. Certainly (I) don't feel like it's time now." That may be bad news for his fellow racers. Johnson is the only driver to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup every year; he's won multiple races every year since his first full season in 2002 and he has finished outside the top five in points only twice during his 14-year career. In a sport that changes constantly, Johnson and success have been linked since Day 1. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon , 44, is stepping aside at year's end. Fellow series champion Tony Stewart , also 44, has announced that 2016 will be his last as a Sprint Cup Series driver. "I remember watching Rusty (Wallace) pick a number and then remember talking to (him) in years following that and I still think he's mad he stopped," Johnson said. "I think he feels like he could be out here racing with us and winning races. "So conversations with him, with Dale Jarrett , with other guys ... I have always been curious. Why, when, what tells you to stop? Mark (Martin) tried a half dozen times to retire and couldn't walk away. "So I want to make sure I do it once and not keep coming back." What he's looking for, he said, is "the moment." "That moment that you say, ‘Alright, it's time.' When that shows up, then I will step down." The final race in this year's Challenger Round is set for Sunday. It will be Johnson's 500th career start, and his fifth-place points position makes him a shoo-in to be one of the 12 drivers who advance into the Contender Round. Becoming a member of Hendrick Motorsports , paired with sponsor Lowe's and crew chief Chad Knaus, the success that followed has "been a life-changing experience," Johnson said, "something I dreamed of. "But I still couldn't have dreamed this big and have this much take place for us."
Ned Jarrett , a two-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, said Thursday that he is cancer-free after surgery and four weeks of recent treatment for melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Jarrett , 82, said he was diagnosed with the disease this winter but that his health prognosis was encouraging. The NASCAR Hall of Famer said he was able to participate in last weekend's festivities at Darlington Raceway without restriction, joining the NBC Sports booth to broadcast a portion of Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500. "It is very positive and I feel good," Jarrett told NASCAR.com. "In fact, I feel the best I've felt in a couple of years at least. Getting my immune system built up and getting toxins out of my body and the cancer, I'm really feeling good and feeling good about the whole situation. I know now how to better take care of my body, so hopefully, it won't come back." Jarrett said that a biopsy was performed in January after dermatologists discovered a spot on his left arm during a check-up. After the diagnosis, he had successful surgery Feb. 20 to remove the cancerous areas. After further consultation and tests at the Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research in Cornelius, North Carolina, Dr. Rashid Buttar discovered additional melanoma and prescribed a four-week course of treatment in July. Jarrett was declared cancer-free after completion of the program. "There are no limitations," Jarrett said. "I'll be a little bit more careful about what I eat and the sun exposure that I get, although I'm not going to stop playing golf or going to the races or wherever I need to go. I'll just be a little bit more careful about exposure for my skin to the sun." Jarrett said that skin cancer wasn't even an afterthought growing up in the rural North Carolina foothills, but that cancer was part of his genealogy. He lost seven family members, including his father, to the disease during a six-month stretch in 1983. "Of course, I grew up on a farm and worked in a sawmill," Jarrett said. "We didn't know anything about cancer or how it worked or that sun could do damage, and we went without shirts most of the time working on the farm. Then all of the years that I raced, I was outside and didn't even know about sunscreen. I feel very fortunate, especially since there has been a lot of cancer in my family, back in '83 in particular. So I was fortunate that it went as long as it did without showing up." Jarrett said the purpose of making his story public was to raise awareness for cancer treatment, but the revelation is part of a much longer-running mission. Jarrett has helped raise more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society as host of a charity golf tournament in his home state for more than 25 years. "I want to encourage people at the first sign of cancer, get something done about it," Jarrett said. "We were very proactive on this situation as far as I'm concerned and I feel like that helped us to treat it and get rid of it quick and I would encourage others to do the same. If there are suspicions, check it out, get a handle on it and get it taken care of." Jarrett -- nicknamed "Gentleman Ned" for his kind, calm disposition -- scored 50 Grand National (now Sprint Cup) victories in his brief career, becoming one of the sport's earliest stars in a period of substantial growth for stock-car racing. He was crowned premier-series champion in 1961 and 1965, and also won titles in 1957 and '58 in the fore-runner to the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Jarrett was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, the second group of five chosen for enshrinement. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. After his retirement at age 34, Jarrett moved on to business ventures, a role as track promoter at Hickory Speedway and a seamless transition to broadcasting, where his voice became a familiar sound on MRN Radio and television networks CBS and ESPN. Jarrett's two sons -- Dale and Glenn -- followed his career arc from the track to the world of broadcasting. Dale Jarrett , premier-series champion in 1999, won the Daytona 500 three times with his father watching and making an emotional call of his first triumph in the Great American Race alongside the legendary Ken Squier in 1993. Dale Jarrett is currently part of NBC Sports' broadcast team. Glenn Jarrett , Dale's older brother, made 77 NASCAR national series starts and currently serves as a reporter for MRN Radio. Ned Jarrett and Squier were reunited in the broadcast suite Sunday night at Darlington, with Dale Jarrett joining in as part of NBC Sports' participation in NASCAR's throwback weekend. Their vintage call of the 500-mile classic drew rave reviews across social media, but ranked as a special personal moment for the 82-year-old Hall of Famer. "We've truly been blessed in a number of different ways over the years through the sport," Jarrett said, recalling his career highlights on the track and in the booth. "This last weekend ranks up there in the top five of highlights of my life, whether it was professional or just things that happened along the way. I'm very thankful for that."
RELATED: NXS results from Iowa " Truck results from Pocono Dale Earnhardt Jr . says the No. 88 team was lucky to drive away with a fourth-place finish at Pocono but had high praise for his JR Motorsports teams' performances last weekend. Saying it was a great weekend overall for the organization, Junior was excited about second places for Regan Smith in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Kevin Harvick in the NASCAR Camping World Truck s Series. Earnhardt said Smith "did a good job" and said Harvick "didn't have a winning truck but got a lot out of it," adding that his Sprint Cup driving peer always does a good job when he jumps in a JRM truck. Smith's XFINITY crew chief, Jason Burdett, also got kudos from the boss during the radio show. "Jason Burdett, the crew chief in that car (No. 7 Chevrolet) has been awesome this year," Junior said. "If you know that guy's story, you can appreciate how hard it's been a climb for him." Burdett has been a part of two championship Sprint Cup teams, with Jeff Gordon in 2001 and and Dale Jarrett and Robert Yates Racing in 1999. He was car chief on the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team from 2008-10 before moving to Earnhardt's No. 88 team from 2011-14. Junior saved his most effusive praise for Cole Custer 's ARCA win at Pocono and Josh Berry 's Late Model victory at Orange County. "Cole (Custer) has a bright future and I'm excited about working with that kid next year and providing an opportunity for him to showcase his talents," Earnhardt said on the Dale Jr. Download on Dirty Mo Radio after returning from Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Pocono. "Hopefully, we can do a good job giving him that opportunity." Custer is a 17-year-old member of the NASCAR Next Class of 2015. The Ladera Ranch, California, native holds the records for youngest pole award and race winner in both the Truck Series and NASCAR's touring series. This season he has a win in the Truck Series at Gateway Motorsports Park. Custer has started five NCWTS races for JR Motorsports in the No. 00 Chevrolet this season after making nine starts in the series last year with Stewart-Haas Racing 's developmental team. RELATED: See the NASCAR Next Class of 2015 Berry is 24 and won the Summer Sizzler 75 lap Late Model race Saturday night at Orange County Speedway near Rougemont, North Carolina. "He's been winning left and right," Earnhardt said of Berry. "I've never won at Orange County before. He's sure representing us very well at all the local tracks that we love to race at." Junior added that he's very proud of the JR Motorsports late model program, and "not just for the obvious reasons" of winning and representing sponsors well. He takes pride in "racing at these local venues that have meant so much to so many people in our sport over the years. It's a good feeling. Just keeping up with the Langleys and the Orange Counties of the world."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes a pass around Jamie McMurray to clinch the 12th position and advance in the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Blake Shelton gives a touching speech as he introduces and offically inducts Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Alan Cavanna talks with Dale Jarrett about the people in life who helped him achieve racing immortality.
NASCAR Hall of Famers think new format has been great, added excitement RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace each won championships at NASCAR's highest level under a season-long cumulative points system, years before the advent of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. This year's format is a drastic change from the system of their heyday, with eliminations, rewards for winning and consistency all part of the equation. Even though the current complexion of the Chase represents a dramatic shift, both retired drivers said they'd have welcomed a shot at the title under this year's revised rules. "I would've loved to have been a part of it," Jarrett said. "I think all your champions will tell you the reason they're champions is because of how they thrive and handle pressure-packed situations, and I think we're seeing exactly that. I get ramped up doing the telecasts so I can't imagine what it would've been like driving." The two NASCAR Hall of Famers swapped stories and offered their thoughts about the state of the sport in a rollicking half-hour news conference Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN). Both former drivers will share in calling the championship finale in their roles as TV analysts. Wallace and Jarrett each won one title in NASCAR's premier series a decade apart, with Wallace reigning in 1989 and Jarrett's crowning moment coming in 1999. For selfish reasons, Wallace said he would have preferred if the idea had been hatched for the new-look Chase during his racing career. "For me, they told me if we'd had this format while I was driving, I'd have won three championships with the amount of wins I've had," Wallace said. "So yeah, I like this a lot. I think it's an exciting series with what they're doing now." Wallace said several fellow members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame would have adapted well to the new format, reeling off the names of Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as drivers who relied on a healthy mix of winning plus consistency. Jarrett added the name of NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Terry Labonte to the list, but went back even further to marvel at what Hall of Famers Fireball Roberts or Junior Johnson could have accomplished under Chase rules. "I think that it would've fit all different eras if we had this type of format in those times," Jarrett said. Both agreed that the new format has increased the intensity of the racing this season, some of which has spilled over to post-race confrontations. Jarrett said that some of those same issues cropped up during his driving days, but that the spotlight's glare wasn't as wide as today's, with social media and traditional media expanding the number of eyes focused on the sport. Wallace pointed to Ryan Newman brushing aside rookie Kyle Larson last weekend as an instance of the hard-edged racing that the new Chase format has created. While some of the extracurriculars go over the line and result in punishment, Wallace said there's still a balance in what qualifies as acceptable and what isn't. "It has changed a little bit, but I think the drivers being able to get out there and have a lot of contact and not being penalized for it is a good thing nowadays," Wallace said. "The fighting, the beating each other up -- I'm not a big fan of that. I do like controversy and I do like excitement, and I think that was OK to tolerate. Everybody's going to have a different approach." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
NBC Sports analysts give thoughts on 2014 Chase, what we'll see in 2015 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Related: Burton, Letarte explain Jeff Gordon's major decision By now, it's safe to say that last season's revamped Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the drama surrounding its race action immediately left us speechless, but eventually kept us talking. With NBC Sports' NASCAR tenure set to resume this season after nine years away from the sport, its all-star crew of Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett , Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty gave their thoughts last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom on the new format -- what they enjoyed and what we're bound to see in 2015. According to these NASCAR heavyweights, it sounds like we're going to see even more intense action than last year, as hard as that is to imagine. Jeff Burton, 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner "I've always believed that I was giving 100 percent. That no matter where I was in points, no matter what was going on, that I brought everything that I could bring. This points structure made you bring more. And it made the teams find a way to be better. And I think in our sport, that's what this is all about. It's about being better. You're good in April? Hey, that's great. But if you're not good enough in August and September, it ain't good enough. "The idea that you have to improve throughout the whole year -- that if you win a race, you're in -- but points still matter. I think all of that is really cool. I would hate it if points didn't matter. I know that everybody wanted the guy that won the most races and the right races to be the champion, but points should still matter. It's always been a big part of this sport and it still currently is today. So the fact that points matter, the fact that winning covers up all other mistakes and the fact that you have to be right at the right time; that's what a crunch moment is all about. "As a fan of all kinds of sports, the reason I like the Super Bowl is because if you don’t win, you lose. You go home. … And that's the mentality that has been brought to in racing today. You have to win. Or you have to compete at an exceptionally high level or you're not going to win a championship; you're not going to get done what you need to get done. I like the fact that it's made it harder for the teams, it's made it more intense for the teams. The more intense and the more stressful it is for the competitors, the more fun it is to watch. And this points structure has been without a doubt all those things." Dale Jarrett , NASCAR Hall of Famer "Jeff put it better than I think I've ever heard it put it before. Everything that he's saying there, he was spot-on with that. I think if you look back over the years, no matter how long we've been around this, whenever you have made things more difficult for the drivers, it's more entertaining for the fans and I think that's exactly what this did. "Last year at (Media Tour), we heard a lot of drivers … say 'Look, I race as hard as I can every week, I can't do anymore to try to win than what I do.' I understand that. I know the mentality. We've been there. We've done that. But, I think it proved out that if there is something different, just as Jeff was pointing out, you have to dig down and find another way to make yourself a part of that. "Kyle Busch said something (last week) about his issue at Talladega and what happened to him. That was very unfortunate, because he had done everything right to get himself moved on. He said, 'You know, if I'd got the job done a week before, and won that race, Talladega wouldn't have mattered.' So they've got a different mentality. "There's no perfect system out there, because everybody is not going to agree with it, but my gosh, we came pretty close. That was as exciting a 10-race schedule as I've ever seen in this sport." Steve Letarte, 15-time Sprint Cup Series-winning crew chief "I think that's going to be one of the biggest stories, is how are teams going to adapt? I was only able to take part in one (season) of this new Chase format and I know we learned a lot. It was a great season with a little bit of a letdown in the second round, but there were a lot of teams that have that same feeling. It's going to be an interesting take on 'How can I approach these 10 races differently? Is there a different way that maybe my team should've moved through? What crew chiefs are going to have a different approach? What drivers are going to put different weights on different race tracks?' "You have to be at Homestead. I think that's what's unique about this playoff style. No matter how good of a year you've had, if you slip up, you can overcome with a win, but that's the only way you're going to overcome. And these short, three-race segments you really have to win or have a great three races to move forward. I think we saw some big hitters, some championship favorites last year get knocked out as the playoffs went on and I think that's a big difference from in the years past where you maybe always had a chance. This year, your chances, your book can be closed. Your year can be over. And then we go to Homestead and I don't think we could've asked for a better race at Homestead last year. I don't think that's going to be a rarity. "I think when it's all on the line, the four teams that have a chance are probably always going to find that next level to step up and put on a great race." Kyle Petty, eight-time Sprint Cup Series winner "Being at the race track and being down there with it. … Dale's been in a championship chase, I was with my father (Richard Petty) in the late 70s and you get down and it's two guys working for a championship and the intensity in those two teams was always overwhelming. When The King and Darrell (Waltrip) went at it, man, it was crazy that year. I didn't know what was going to happen that year and I was just a kid. But the intensity went to a different place and Darrell and The King went to a different place, as far as what they did on the race track and how they performed on the race track. Great drivers and great teams always find a way to step up. "What we saw in the Chase was a lot of teams find that ability to step up. Step up in that first round; step up in that second round. The intensity just got greater and greater and greater. To be a part of that and to be able to try to convey to the race fans at home exactly what Dale Jr. was feeling or Steve Letarte felt sitting on that pit box last year or what Dale Jarrett felt in the car when he was racing for the championship going into that last race and the butterflies and how he felt. I think that's what this Chase brings and that's what we can bring." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce compares Jimmie Johnson to the 'Intimidator' RELATED: Johnson wins at Dover for 10th time The greatest NASCAR driver of all time is … Jimmie Johnson ? That's the word on the street, or in this case the voice on the radio, and since the bluegrass channel was on a commercial break I decided to stick around long enough to hear how that particular conclusion was reached. Such comparisons are inevitable – it's the sort of thing that arises when one is chasing legends. No different than when Jeff Gordon was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. No different than when Earnhardt was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Petty. And no different than when Petty began piling up wins and titles on his way to overtaking a host of former champions, including his father, Lee, the first to win three NASCAR premier series championships. What the 39-year-old Johnson has managed to accomplish in little more than 13 full seasons in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series certainly puts him in the same league with Petty and Earnhardt, NASCAR's only seven-time champions. There's no doubt that Johnson, fit and trim and now only two wins away from matching Earnhardt's career win total of 76 victories, is one of the sport's greatest drivers. But is he No. 1? From a numbers standpoint, the Hendrick Motorsports driver will undoubtedly surpass Earnhardt's win total, and it's likely he'll eventually capture a seventh championship. He could, in fact, become the first driver to win more than seven titles. That would make him the most successful driver from a championship standpoint (neither he nor anyone else will come close to Petty's mark of 200 career wins), but will that make him NASCAR's greatest driver? No. That designation, without question, belongs to Earnhardt. Statistics are a great way to gauge success. But it takes more than numbers to measure greatness. Johnson has managed to excel during what some claim is the most competitive era in the history of NASCAR. Yes, there are more winners, on average, today. But there are also more races on the schedule, thus also more opportunities. A larger number of teams run the full schedule today, although that doesn't necessarily mean there are more "better" teams competing. Earnhardt never ran a season consisting of 36 points races; Johnson's never run in fewer than 36. Earnhardt never had the opportunity to compete at Kansas, Chicago or Kentucky; but by the same token, Johnson never raced at North Wilkesboro or Riverside. I have a strong feeling both could have won at those tracks given the chance. I'll argue that the talent pool Earnhardt often faced was just as deep – with lineups including drivers such as Petty and Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Geoff Bodine and Harry Gant. Eventually Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Tim Richmond and others took their place. Most were champions; many are already members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Johnson is one of the greatest drivers that today's fans will ever see. What he has done has been nothing short of amazing. If one wants to argue that he would not have won 74 races and six championships had it not been for Hendrick Motorsports and Chad Knaus, the same could be said of Earnhardt, who owed much of his success to Richard Childress Racing and the talented group he worked with there. But what elevates Earnhardt above the rest is more than the fact that he was so successful. He provided fans with some of the sport's most memorable moments during his two-plus decades. Among them: winning the pole at Watkins Glen in '96 (and setting the track qualifying record, to boot) just two weeks after suffering a broken collarbone and sternum in a vicious crash at Talladega; climbing from his damaged car and into the ambulance, only to quickly exit and return to his car once he realized it would still run, at Daytona in '97; his first and only Daytona 500 victory the following season, a win that erased 19 years of heartbreak. There was the "rattle his cage" incident with Terry Labonte en route to victory in the night race at Bristol in '99; the wrongly-termed but aptly promoted "pass in the grass" on his way to winning the 1997 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway ; and the charge from 18th to first in the final five laps of the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . For two decades, greatness drove a Chevrolet and it carried the number 3. They were memorable moments that elevated the sport and defined the man. Johnson can win more races and win more championships, but he can't match that. He needn't worry – no one else can, either. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Dale Jarrett reflects on his family and how they helped him reach the NASCAR Hall of Fame.