Johnson finds winning is getting tougher

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Washington, Nov 21: Two-times champion Jimmie Johnson said that life at the top of NASCAR racing was only going to get harder next year as his rivals gain in experience.

''Every year it gets tougher and tougher,'' Johnson said during a teleconference with reporters yesterday. ''Teams are getting stronger every year. And you've got guys with more experience.

''We have a great crop of talented drivers that are now years two and three in their Nextel Cup careers. In my heart, I know it's only going to get more difficult as time goes on.'' Johnson won his second successive championship on Sunday after defending his points lead over Hendrick Motorsports team mate Jeff Gordon in the final race of the season.

The 32-year-old Johnson drove his Lowe's Chevrolet to 10 victories during the 36-race season, including four of the last five races.

While Johnson did not think he was part of a NASCAR dynasty, he said the label fits four-times champion Gordon.

''I think Jeff in what he's accomplished in his career is certainly worthy of that title,'' said Johnson.

''We've done something amazing, but we're not in that realm yet.

And I certainly hope to be.'' Johnson said he was proud that after winning the 2006 title, his team was able to hit the ground running the following season.

SOAKING IN

''When you win the championship, the team deserves to enjoy that moment and let it soak in,'' he said. ''And that is what is so impressive with our team. They were able to do that.

''I was able to do that, and we still opened up and started the season and were winning races right out of the box. So I'm very, very proud of that.'' Johnson left no doubt whom he believes should be motorsports' Driver of the Year.

''I'd vote for myself,'' he said. ''This is pretty special this year. I know there were a lot of great moments in motorsports.

''Casey Stoner on the motorcycles. Lewis Hamilton, the year he's had. Dario (Franchitti) had an amazing season in the 500 and the championship.

''But we had a stellar year and I'm very, very proud of what we've done. I think that I've earned the title as Driver of the Year.''

UNI

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