Summer Bedgood · Monday July 8, 2013
As I’m sure you’ve heard, Jimmie Johnson’s win last Saturday night in Daytona held some history in it. After winning the Daytona 500 earlier this year, Johnson followed it up with a dominating win in the Coke Zero 400, leading 94 of the 161 laps in one of the most dominating wins on a plate track in recent memory.
Johnson’s Daytona sweep was not the first time a driver was able to pull that off, but it was the first time in a while. Bobby Allison was the last driver to hold that spot, sweeping both the February race and the July race in 1982. LeeRoy Yarborough, Cale Yarborough, and Fireball Roberts are also in the record books for the same accomplishment in years past.
Johnson’s win wasn’t altogether surprising, considering Johnson has a season high four wins this year (tied with Matt Kenseth). Even though Johnson hasn’t won a championship now for the last two seasons, those five titles in a row are still fresh in everyone’s minds. With the No. 48 leading the points now, it has us all now wondering if this will be title number six and, perhaps, the start of another run for this team.
It seems a strange conversation to be having considering that, after each restrictor plate race, we’re talking about how great the race was or how the winner was a little crazy, but we collectively acknowledge that the race typically doesn’t mean much in terms of the season or even that the driver is a threat to win the rest of the year.
For Johnson, however, it seemed to be another notch in his belt and a solidifying of his status as a championship contender even though it has been seven years since he won his first career title. Again, not surprising, but certainly impressive in terms of the length of time he’s gone without any real slump. That’s considering the fact that almost every single driver who ever finished second to Johnson went on a slump the following year and that even Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski seemed to struggle through the season after their recent championship seasons.
This talk might seem a little premature considering that we’re only halfway through the season, and we still have a points reset and an entire Chase to finish before we even know who will still be eligible for the championship when the series finally heads to Homestead. That means the series will have to go through Talladega one more time before we truly know the answers to any of these questions.
Do any of us really believe that Johnson won’t be in contention for the 2013 title, though? At this point, it seems like a statistical inevitability.
At hearing those words, though, there are many of you who shuddered in disgust. In fact, I’ve seen several “fans” (or something) say they won’t tune in as often now because Johnson’s dominance has turned them off.
First of all, I don’t believe you. If you’ve stuck around this long, you can probably sit through another Johnson title or two.
But that’s not the point. The point is that, even though Johnson is destined for the Hall of Fame and will forever be remembered in this sport as something of a legend, it’s interesting to see so many people turned off by it. I’m sure that there were fans who weren’t thrilled with Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s or Jeff Gordon’s dominance at their peak, but I find it hard to believe that fans hated it so much that they were threatening to tune out, calling out conspiracies, and altogether losing their minds because it was just too much to chew on at one time.
I’m not even talking about fans jumping on the bandwagon and wearing Johnson’s fang ear because if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I’m simply talking about the general reaction whenever Johnson wins. It’s not pleasant, positive, or at all congratulatory. There is no acknowledgment of how truly great the team is, or even that we’re witnessing history. It’s generally a vitriolic spiral so vicious that it leaves me wiping black flakes of goop off of my computer screen.
And don’t start with me about the Chase. Every other team was playing with the exact same rules as Johnson.
It leaves me wondering what history will remember Johnson for. Will Johnson and his team be recalled for their truly impressive dominance, pulling off win after win, championship after championship, in a way that no other driver before them ever had before? Or will he be a simple championship afterthought because the reaction to his success by the fans was so blasé?
In my opinion, once we’re several years removed from this time in history when Johnson was so dominant, it will be much more respected. He’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and the people who were there will reminisce with pleasantries even though at the time they rolled their eyes. It tends to work that way because, in the end, the congratulations are deserved.
In short, Johnson’s historic feat in Daytona didn’t just loop him in the ranks with Bobby Allison for one race. In general, like Allison, he will be remembered as one of the greats.
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