Jimmie Johnson is just one of those drivers you either hate to love or love to hate, the difficult decision is which one best describes you and why?
No, this isn’t a high school exam, it’s simply a question that has left me pondering why do so many NASCAR fans pull against the five-time reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, and then it hits me, he has won five straight.
In a recent article I posted about Johnson, I raised the question, “If I were to ask you who was the last one to win the NSCS championship, excluding Johnson, would you be able to tell me?”, I would be willing to bet the majority of NASCAR fans either know the answer but have to stop and think for a second, or just don’t know the answer at all.
It’s scary to think you can never count out a driver like Johnson in the Chase, as he seems to sneak back up into the mix every time ‘we’ write him off.
Just before last weeks race at Dover International Speedway, Johnson was ranked 10th in the points standings, by far the worst Chase position he has ever been in since the existence of the Chase points format in 2004.
However, this week is a different story. Johnson is ranked fifth in the Chase points standings, as he only sits 13 points out from the lead. What has changed over the last week for Johnson? The answer- Johnson finished Dover strong, which is exactly what he needed moving forward.
There is one lesson we must take from the Chase format. It’s not where you start that makes you great (as long as you make the top-12), it’s where you finish. Basically, you can have a mediocre regular season and just do enough to make the Chase, and you could be contending for the most treasured championship trophy in all of motorsports.
Just look at Tony Stewart. Stewart went 0-for-26 during the regular season, and later went on to win back-to-back races to start off the Chase. Granted, one dismal finish can leave you feeling ‘empty-handed’, as that might be all it takes to separate you from winning the championship and falling short in second.
Needless to say, Johnson didn’t have the regular season he might have hoped for (even though it was great in some team’s mindset), but none of that matters now, as he is contending for a sixth-straight title.
Now I can sit here all day and write about the future of NASCAR based on whether or not Johnson wins or loses the championship, but is that really fair? I can still remember Johnson winning his fifth championship last year; Just watching and reading what others were saying about Johnson was appalling. I understand the frustration behind having someone win all the time, but that doesn’t mean fans should pull against him just for the sake of doing so.
If Johnson wins a sixth straight title, how will you feel? Will you think there is a conspiracy behind Johnson’s championships, while thinking NASCAR is in a ‘secret’ plot to have a driver/team win so many championships in a row just to prove this sport can have a dynasty?
This whole notion is preposterous, and personally I think we should just drop it. As stated before, whether you like Johnson or not is your business, but one can not argue with the fact that he is a proven race winner.
Try focusing on this sport through a 19-year old’s perspective, as myself. I have personally witnessed the New England Patriots dominating the National Football League, I have witnessed the L.A. Lakers dominating the NBA, heck, I have even witnessed the New York Yankees dominating the MLB. My point of this matter, if for some reason Johnson does win his sixth straight, take pride in it. After all, Johnson helped put NASCAR on the international map in recent years.
So, if you were to ask me whether or not I think Johnson has the potential to win a sixth straight title in 2011, I would say without a shadow of a doubt, yes.
With that being said, in order for Johnson to achieve his goal of winning yet another championship, he must first concentrate on the task at hand. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet has one win (2008) and eight top-10′s in 10 races at Kansas Speedway, not bad.
I’ll leave you with this thought; Let’s not be so quick to condone a winner, as it is in our nature to do so, but rather build him up until the next ‘driver’ shows they have what it takes to win a championship in this dominating, grueling series we have all come to love, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.