Summer Bedgood · Monday November 4, 2013
Maximum points. It’s a term that Jimmie Johnson has come to know well in his Sprint Cup Series career.
Johnson has won a total of 66 races, a pretty significant number no matter how you spin it. JJ’s scored maximum points in no less than 33 of those events, meaning that he won the race, received winner’s bonus points (when the points system allowed), and led the most laps.
33 times. That’s half of the races that Johnson has won — which is already quite a bit — that the five-time champ has flat out dominated to get to Victory Lane. These aren’t fuel mileage finishes, rain-shortened ones, or track position surprises, ones that he lucked into based on another competitor’s misfortunes. These are slaughterhouses of races, simply put where 42 other competitors are racing for second while the No. 48 team is hell-bent on victory.
No wonder fans are so sick of Johnson! It’s not just that he wins a ton of races. I mean, sure, it bothers them to see the same guy winning over and over again, but he’s not the first driver to do so. What happens with Johnson is that when he wins, he does it in a way that typically makes the race out to be a snoozer.
Admit it. When Johnson takes the lead, you think “It’s over.” At this point, it’s just habit. With five championships in a row, and only a two year absence from the top of the standings, it’s difficult not to fall into that same line of thinking when it comes to the championship.
As Texas Motor Speedway wound to a close on Sunday and Johnson added yet another maximum point win to his total, he left the track with a seven point advantage over Matt Kenseth. Now, Kenseth and Johnson entered the race in a dead tie, with Kenseth holding the advantage because he had more wins. Yes, someone did have more wins than Johnson.
While Kenseth finished fourth, a day that would have been successful had his closest competitor not won the race, Johnson’s win put him on top of the standings with only two races left. And with that came the panic attacks and outrages that come with every Johnson victory nowadays.
The problem with that reaction is that it’s completely unfounded. Take a look at last year for instance. Johnson left Texas last year with the exact same distance between himself and Brad Keselowski. The exact same race, with the same amount of races left, with the exact same points lead that he has right at this moment.
Do you know who won the championship that year?
Hint: It wasn’t Johnson.
Keselowski would win the championship by 39 points, winning his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the process. More importantly, he’d beat a five time champion of the sport to do it.
Granted, a blown right front tire at Phoenix was due in part to Johnson entering Homestead at somewhat of a disadvantage, though that didn’t stop him from making a run at it. In addition, Johnson said Sunday night after the race that he felt more confident heading into Phoenix than he did last year.
Still, though, who is to say that nothing happens this week? Who is to say another tire, another engine, or something random happens and he winds up having to settle for second again?
I’m not saying that Johnson won’t win the championship or that his win tonight didn’t prove he’ll be a factor up until the very end. But way too many people are already etching his name on the trophy before the planes ever land in Miami. The reality is that there is just too much racing left for anyone to reach any conclusions.
Hang on tight, though, because it’s going to be exciting either way.
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