Summer Bedgood · Monday August 5, 2013
The green flag flies, he takes the lead … and it’s over. It doesn’t matter whether the race is 100 laps or 600 miles. TVs flip off, hands fly up, and keyboards light up as the Twittersphere ignites with unbridled frustration.
And I’m not talking about Kyle Busch in the Nationwide Series.
The fact is, Jimmie Johnson is one of the most dominant drivers in NASCAR history. You could perhaps make the argument for most dominant, though he has yet to hit that seven championships mark that has been set by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Yet it is not insurmountable. Two more championships for a guy who has won five of the last seven titles is not difficult to imagine, though doing so tends to cause bile to rise in the throats of many dedicated racing fans.
Oh, but wait … lady luck seems to have other plans. Does she not? Despite the fact that Johnson has five top 10s in the last six races, including a victory, he has certainly dealt with his share of hardships.
Consider just this past Sunday at Pocono, where a blown right front tire while leading the race caused Johnson and his team to do damage control rather than consider what to do on their next pitstop to seal the victory. Though they were able to, erm, “recover” from the incident and finish 13th, it is one in a long list of storylines this year where Johnson lost a race through some sort of heartbreaking mess.
This incident came just a week after a pit road mistake more than likely cost Johnson the victory at Indianapolis, where he was mere seconds away from Ryan Newman’s bumper yet unable to capitalize. Before that, in Loudon, he was somewhat of a non-factor.
Though he won the Daytona race a few weeks ago, that particular win came on the heels of several weeks of restart misery (and whining), restarts that Johnson says cost him wins.
In other words, things aren’t going well for Johnson this year.
Despite the fact that some racing pundits are talking about all of this “bad luck” that Johnson has endured over the past month and how it needs to stop … it’s all just a bunch of hot air.
Johnson is just fine.
Let’s not forget that Johnson was dominating this race on Sunday. He was going to win. You can argue all you want, but the only way he wasn’t going to win that race is if something happened that was out of his control.
And that’s exactly what went down in Pocono. A blown right front tire is generally uncontrollable, even though Johnson admitted in Michigan earlier this year that he caused that particular failure. In this case, it came at a surprise to him and everyone else. They don’t know why it happened, how it happened, but it cost them what was a surefire victory in their minds and more than likely in the minds of anyone who has been watching NASCAR for any amount of time this year or before. It was just setup to happen.
The same thing can be said for the rest of these races. If you thought the second place finish at the Brickyard did anything other than light a fire in the belly of that team, you are a driveling idiot. It wasn’t a wakeup call. It didn’t lower the morale. It did nothing but motivate Johnson, Chad Knaus, and any other person who wears a 48 firesuit to go out to Pocono and win that darned race, points be damned.
And let’s not forget he’s the freaking points leader and is tied for wins only with Matt Kenseth, who has made it to Victory Lane but hasn’t maintained the consistency needed to win a championship. In other words, he is in a league of his own this season and he isn’t cooling down as the year progresses. Nor is he peaking too soon.
In fact, the restarts soap opera is long gone too, and that was nothing more than a power trip between Johnson and NASCAR that went on far longer than it needed to. With NASCAR safely in the winner’s column on that one, the incident is now so far behind that team that they would probably laugh at you if you brought it up.
Now, what I’m not saying is that they should start engraving Johnson’s name on that trophy just yet. This sport has a way of changing drastically in a matter of weeks. Just look at the last two champions in this sport and when they actually started to show championship worthiness in the season, and you will see enough evidence of that. Between that little nugget, the points reset, and the entire 10 week Chase, it’s not fair to predict a champion at this point in the season.
However, there is nothing … nothing … wrong with this 48 team. I don’t care the obstacles that they’ve hit or the issues they’ve run into. It doesn’t matter. When the Chase begins and the important part really begins, they will be fine. They may not be the best at the end of the year, but Johnson and company aren’t done with this season by any longshot.
Quite the opposite. They are only getting better every week.
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