Dale Earnhardt Jr. rooting for Jimmie Johnson to win 7th Cup title

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has two Hendrick Motorsports teammates in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but he admits he is pulling for one of the two.

Earnhardt, speaking on his weekly "The Dale Jr. Download" podcast, admitted he wants Jimmie Johnson to win the 2016 championship.

A championship would tie Johnson with Earnhardt's father and Richard Petty for the record of seven Cup titles.

"He wants that [seventh] so badly," Earnhardt said. "We've had a few conversations about that, and I know how much that would mean to him. ... To be quite honest, yes, I am pulling for Jimmie to get this championship and 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."

Johnson won the race Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, earning a bid in the semifinal round of eight drivers. In the first two years of the elimination-style Chase, Johnson did not get out of the first two rounds.

Earnhardt has often said that Johnson should be in the conversations of the sport's greatest drivers. He reiterated that in the podcast released Monday, a day after Johnson's 78th career victory.

"He's one of the greatest race car drivers this sport's seen," Earnhardt said. "Obviously to win five championships in a row is unbelievable, and the argument is undeniable that he is one of the greatest.

"He ranks right up there with the old man and anyone else you want to put in that conversation."

Earnhardt has missed the last 12 races and will sit out the final six of 2016 as he recovers from a concussion. Planning to return next season, Earnhardt spent the weekend with his race team at the track and plans to be at most of the remaining races working and hanging out with his team.

His replacement, Alex Bowman, started second but crashed early after having a tire come apart. Hendrick's other Chase driver, Chase Elliott, was running well when he was collected in an accident.

Kasey Kahne, who didn't make the Chase, finished third and recorded his fifth top-10 in the last six races in a sign of Hendrick strength.

"I was surprised at how frustrating and difficult this summer was, but I knew we would get it going," Earnhardt said about the organization. "I'm happy about that and makes me excited to be in the car when I do get back in there.

"I'm having fun going to the races. ... 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."