HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson has sported a helmet this year that includes the images of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. Painted between the Hall of Famers, a florescent green 7 shines from the back.Johnson didnt tell crew chief Chad Knaus about the helmet. He probably knew better. Knaus doesnt exactly endorse the looking-beyond-the-immediate-race strategy.But Johnson needed something to focus on as he attempted to go from a six-time Sprint Cup champion to a record-tying seven-time titlist. Only Petty and Earnhardt have accomplished such a feat.So after two seasons in which he failed to advance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup to the championship round, Johnson started racing with a helmet as a reminder of what he could accomplish.The fact I have the 7 and Dale and Richards faces on my helmet is, one, respect to them and, two, just to put a target on something, Johnson said. Thats the goal. Thats what I want to do. ... Its not that Im trying to get to something so I can stop, that Im getting to the peak of whatever it is and Im good.Its more of a target that I just want to have something to focus on, obsess on.That obsession, which started three years ago after Johnson won his sixth title, has turned into an opportunity Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. If Johnson can finish better than Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano in the Ford 400, Johnson will earn that seventh Sprint Cup title.He wants that [seventh] so badly, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on one of his podcasts. Weve had a few conversations about that, and I know how much that would mean to him. ... I believe he does deserve it.After everything he has put into the sport, I think it would be good for him to go ahead and win that championship.When Earnhardts father won his seventh title, the fans at Rockingham Speedway either cheered for their hero or against the driver who would tie their hero. Johnson could expect the same 22 years later.He has legions of fans, and the Earnhardt endorsement certainly wont hurt him. But many NASCAR fans wouldnt want him to tie a record set when the championship was awarded by points throughout the entire season instead of a reset with 10 races remaining.Its one of those deals where I did my thing in my time, Earnhardt done his thing in his time, Petty said. Jimmie is doing his thing in his time. So we never competed with each other.We won ours against who we was playing against. Earnhardt won his and Jimmie is winning against the people that hes running against, so theres no way to compare it. Its just a number.Johnson has the incredible respect of Petty because he won five consecutive Cup titles in a system in which a driver had to run great over that 10-race stretch. He once had to average a fifth-place finish just to capture the crown over four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.Thats the most underrated record in all of sports, what Jimmie did there, said Richards son, Kyle. But you know what? [My dad] looked at it and said Jimmie may be just pausing at seven. He may go to eight.Heres a guy that has that potential to go on. Were talking seven, but heres a guy thats done it so fast that he can go to eight.The 41-year-old Johnson never dreamed of getting to one. A former motorcycle and off-road racer, Johnson first came to NASCAR just hoping to win a Cup race.Winning seven? It would be insane, Johnson said. I dreamed of winning a race and then to have 79 [wins] and the championships, Ive had to move the bar up over the years because weve just had great fortune and great success.Im not a stat guy and chase that. Im aware of it. Im aware of what it would mean. And, damn, I want to do it.Johnson didnt realize the strain, the pressure of his consecutive championship streak until it got snapped in 2011 and he felt so much more relaxed going into Homestead. He failed to advance to the championship round in the first two years of the elimination format after his 2013 title.That has led his crew, in rah-rah moments, to say that NASCAR tried to Jimmie-proof the Chase with this format, where four drivers get eliminated every three races and its a best-finish-take-all day at Homestead -- a track where Johnson averages a 14th-place finish. Now the crew wants Johnson to prove he can win in any format.Im trying to distinguish if its championship pressure or if its really about seven, Johnson said. The last couple of years when the doors closed for whatever reason, theres a ton of pain and agony that goes with it.I dont think its necessarily about seven. Its about missing the chance of winning one. Especially the last one. I felt like I could have been a player [last year].This year, Johnson didnt look anything like a player over the summer. But his Hendrick Motorsports team has rebounded since August, and he has won two races in the Chase. His win at Martinsville gave him three weeks to focus on Homestead.It also allowed him to relax. He can go on 7-mile runs and think about the Homestead race. He also held an event for his foundation, in which he awarded grants to schools and the kids made toy race cars.Johnson has an obvious tie to wanting to help public schools -- his mother drove a school bus for a living. His father operated a backhoe. Ironically, the driver whose grass roots most closely resemble Dale Earnhardt Sr.s has fought a perception of a slick Californian who had money to get his ride. While Earnhardt used an intimidating persona to earn his stripes, Johnson opted for a professional, squeaky-clean image to make sure that sponsors wanted to support a driver with limited stock-car experience.I fought that my whole career. ... People just thought I had the silver spoon lifestyle, Johnson said. That would have made things a heck of a lot easier if that was the case.But it wasnt. People thought Junior Johnson was my father [for] the longest time.Laugh all you want, but the funny thing is that among the four finalists, Johnson might be the easiest to go have a drink with or celebrate a title. His championship celebration stories are ones that would make any college kid proud and he once proclaimed his liver hated him during one of his championship media tours.While he might not have the due respect of fans across the board, he does have it in the garage -- every garage he has competed in throughout his career. Not only does team owner Rick Hendrick bid at items during the Jimmie Johnson Foundation annual dinner and golf tournament, his former Xfinity Series owner, Stan Herzog, does too. As do his former racing buddies Jeremy McGrath, jet ski racer Victor Sheldon and off-road Hall of Famer Walker Evans.Hes a class guy, rival team owner Roger Penske said. He represents the industry, the garage area, the driver area in such a great way. To me, if he gets it, he sure deserves it.If he gets it, he can retire the helmet. And then torment his crew chief a little by having a helmet designed for a run at the eighth title.I saw it, and I was like, Oh boy, Knaus said about his first spotting the helmet on top of the car. Look, everybody gets motivated differently. Everybody has different things in their mind that gets them going in the morning or continues to motivate them throughout the course of the day.Jimmie, I think its not only a motivation for him to have that stuff on his helmet. I also think its a show of respect to the people that he is chasing. I think its a pretty cool thing.In addition to the tributes to the seven-time champions, what makes the helmet cool is the 7, painted in a way in tribute to the memory of Ricky Hendrick, Ricks son who was among 10 killed in a Hendrick Motorpsorts plane crash in 2004. Ricky used to write his 7 in that style.Johnson didnt design the helmet. He told artist Jason Beam what he wanted -- images of Petty and Earnhardt as well as some way to pay tribute to Ricky -- and Beam did the rest. He found some old-school photos of Earnhardt and Petty both in cowboy hats that he felt gave it a sweet old-school feel and would work best on the helmet. He added Chasing to the 7 after getting a text from Johnson talking about chasing the seventh title.Beam designs helmets for several drivers -- including two of the four finalists, with Busch and Johnson. He did one for Brendan Gaughan that had the family logo and a championship trophy prior to the 2003 truck championship race, which Gaughan ended up not winning.Im really superstitious, Beam said. I was like, [Gaughan] youre jinxing yourself. ... Ive watched this past couple of weeks this whole helmet hype, this whole seven hype and Im thinking I hope its not going to jinx him out of winning.For Beam, he had no problem trying to make an iconic helmet for Johnson.Ive done Jimmies helmets for 16 years, Beam said. Im really comfortable with what I do. Jimmie has always been very supportive. Jimmie doesnt have a lot of input.He has really trusted my judgment. I nailed what his style is years ago.Maybe thats why Johnson has had such a successful run. He doesnt wig out about the small details, putting his faith in the people with talent. All that Knaus asks is that the helmet remains lightweight.Beam has more Johnson helmets to paint. While winning a seventh would be cool, Johnson has no thoughts of winning the title Sunday and then calling it a career. He would go for eight. Or nine. Or possibly even more, although many dont see him racing much past 45.Youll still have to deal with me -- theres no mic drop, Johnson said. My wife might like that, but Im not there yet. She doesnt want to deal with me -- I still have too much racing in my system to get out.Even Petty would think of it as cool if Johnson ties his record. But Petty has been around racing long enough to know that racing is unpredictable at best.So hell watch the race Sunday and see if he welcomes another driver into the seven-title club.Being that I dont have a dog in the hunt, I dont care [if he does it], Petty said. And if he does, Im going to say, Congratulations.If he dont, Try again next year. Danilo Jersey . PETERSBURG, Fla. Ilkay Gundogan Manchester City Jersey .Y. -- Marcell Dareus and the Buffalo Bills defence made life miserable for Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. http://www.authenticmanchestercityshop.com/Authentic-Benjamin-Mendy-Manchester-City-Jersey/ . Most important, perhaps, it went off without a hitch. Organizers poked a little fun at the now-infamous opening ceremony gaffe that saw only four out of five snowflakes open up into rings, leaving the Olympics logo one ring short. Arijanet Muric Jersey . -- Kyrie Irvings last-minute 3-pointer helped seal another victory for Cleveland -- and the Cavaliers longest winning streak since LeBron James left. Ederson Moraes Manchester City Jersey . -- Jacksonville wide receiver Cecil Shorts will likely be a game-time decision whether hell play Sunday in the Jaguars home game against the San Diego Chargers. OAKLAND, Calif. -- Maybe a game-winning, broken-bat hit against baseballs career saves leader in the 18th inning will get Nate Freiman in a nice groove again. Freiman singled home the winning run against Mariano Rivera, lifting the Oakland Athletics to a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday for a three-game sweep. "It was his deal," Freiman said of the cut fastball he saw. "That one he always throws." As a day game after a night game turned into a night game after a day game, John Jaso singled off Preston Claiborne (0-1) to start the decisive rally and went to third on Seth Smiths soft single to shallow left field against Rivera. Rivera issued only the 39th intentional walk of his 19-year career to Jed Lowrie before Freiman ended the 5-hour, 35-minute game on New Yorks getaway day to Anaheim for a weekend series with the Angels. "A little broken-bat blooper over the third baseman, and the other one the same place," Rivera said. "You cant do anything about it." Freiman knew he had it, raising his right arm in triumph. "I knew that was not getting to the left fielder. I knew it was falling," he said. Moments later, Freiman received a celebratory whipped cream pie in the face following his first career game-ending hit -- and Oaklands fifth of 2013 after compiling a major league-best 14 walk-off wins last year. He had entered the game in the top of the 16th. The AL West-leading As (41-27) won their 11th in a row at home, 21st in 26 overall, and moved a season-best 14 games above .500 to extend their best start since 1990. They became the first American League team to play two 18-inning games in one season since Oakland and the Washington Senators did so in 1971. Freimans wife, LPGA golfer Amanda Blumenherst, quickly congratulated her husband on Twitter: "Ahhh!! Nate just ended the 18 inning game! Bases loaded, single!! Pie in the face! Athletics win!" Each team used seven pitchers and threw 255 pitches. In all, 137 batters came to the plate -- short of the season high of 156 during Oaklands 19-inning win over the Angels in April and also the 20-inning game between the Marlins and Mets last Saturday. "It was very taxing even winning the game. To lose could have been demoralizing," As manager Bob Melvin said. "These are awful games to lose." New York made a dramatic play in the bottom of the 15th to keep the game going. Pinch-hitter Coco Crisp singled to left with one out and Vernon Wells made a perfect throw to catcher Chris Stewart, who blocked the plate and absorbed a collision to prevent Brandon Moss from scoring the winning run. The As had already begun streaming out of the dugout to celebrate. The Yankees had runners in scoring position in each of the extra innings through 14, stranding 11 baserunners. They left 13 on base in all while dropping their seventh in a row at the Oakland Coliseum. Pitching foor the first time in eight days, Jesse Chavez (1-0) struck out seven in 5 2-3 scoreless innings.dddddddddddd Chavez fanned Kevin Youkilis and Wells with two on to end the 13th, then Travis Hafner and Wells in the 15th. Jerry Blevins escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 11th with two strikeouts. Pat Neshek worked out of trouble with runners on first and second in the 12th. Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer in the first as New York ended a season-long five-game stretch without a long ball, but the Yankees didnt score again on another day of missed opportunities. "I think its probably a little more frustrating because you can look at how you had an opportunity here and an opportunity there," manager Joe Girardi said. "A lot of guys probably look at that, but it doesnt change the result." It was the longest day game in Coliseum history. Neither A starter Jarrod Parker nor New York counterpart Hiroki Kuroda got a decision after a nice pitchers duel hours before the game ended. After Smiths tying, two-out double in the third, Oakland didnt reach base again until Jasos bloop single leading off the ninth. Oakland won the season series 5-1 for its second-best mark against the Yankees in franchise history. The 1990 club went 12-0. The As tied it at 2 in the third on a close play at the plate. Smith doubled off the wall in right and the relay throw was on target to Stewart, who tagged Jaso with his glove but had the ball in his bare hand. Jaso was called safe by plate umpire CB Bucknor, drawing an argument from Girardi. Earlier in the inning, Derek Norris RBI groundout scored Chris Young, who drew a leadoff walk. Eric Sogard followed with a single before the As pulled off a double steal. Parker, riding a three-start winning streak, was helped by a pair of double plays in the first four innings. Kurodas winless stretch reached five starts since he beat Toronto on May 17. He became the third Japanese-born pitcher with 1,000 innings in the majors, joining Hideo Nomo and Tomo Ohka. Girardi bumped Jayson Nix up to the No. 2 spot in the batting order from eighth a night earlier to shake things up and get the Yankees going, but Nix went 1 for 5 with a strikeout to end the 12th. NOTES: Yankees captain Derek Jeter had his surgically repaired left ankle examined by Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., and was cleared to resume baseball activities and running. ... Crisp (bruised heel) and LF Yoenis Cespedes (tight left hamstring) were held out of the starting lineup. ... Rivera received a surfboard and a bottle of white wine from Napa Valley from the As in a pregame ceremony, along with a $10,042 donation to his foundation. ... The As are 7-0-2 in their last nine series. ... New York agreed to contract terms with Notre Dame 3B Eric Jagielo, who signed for $1,839,400. He was the 26th overall pick in last weeks draft and one of three first-round selections by the Yankees. ' ' '