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Voices from the Heartland: Reader’s Comment Inadvertently Reveals the Problem with Jimmie Johnson

If you come to this website looking for a bunch of happy, fluffy, feel good articles about NASCAR and some of its more colorful characters, my writings are probably not your first stop. Even if I do write about some happy, fluffy, feel-good subject (albeit rare), it is still done in my usual, opinionated manner.

There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is that this column was basically born in a very opinionated, if not occasionally unruly, Midwestern racing tavern several years ago. With that type of beginning, you can see why fluffy is just not my style.

Most of the time, while I do get my share of hate mail and hateful comments, it seems that the general, average Joe or Jane race fan tends to appreciate and agree with my point of view. However, a recent comment to yesterday’s Top 10 list, in which I basically compared Jimmie Johnson to Cale Yarborough, made me stop and think for a moment. The comment was from a reader named Linda, and she had these kind words for me:

“Jeff, you really don’t like Jimmie, do you? If it weren’t for him, I wonder how you would come up with your negative articles.”

Hmm. Well, to Linda I say, no, it’s not that I really dislike Johnson – it’s just that well, it’s Johnson!

Let me explain. While I admit J.J. is not my favorite person by a long-shot, of all the drivers in the Cup Series, he’s the one that brings out the biggest dose of pure apathy. Now, if Linda had been talking about me not liking Kyle Busch, she’d have been spot on. But not Johnson. When it comes to Johnson, probably 90% of NASCAR’s fanbase and I just don’t care. He inspires no excitement for us. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have gotten this whole CoT thing down to such a science that it has become mundane.

Just think about it. All year long it has been Kyle Busch this, Kyle Busch that, with the occasional hope thrown in that Carl Edwards could beat him. Did you hear anything about Johnson? Not much. While Kyle and Carl were racing, Jimmie was just sort of cruising around, lurking and waiting for the Chase to come.

And therein lies the problem most people have with Johnson.

Now, here we are, with barely a month left to race, and Johnson is on the verge of a “three-peat,” the likes of which hasn’t been done in 30 years – and only once before in NASCAR history by the legend Yarborough.

PUGLIESE: JIMMIE JOHNSON, MODERN DAY LEGEND?

Certainly, winning three championships in a row is an outstanding achievement. As we already established, Chad and Jimmie have gotten this type of racing down pat – there is no denying that. However, this feat today simply cannot be compared to what it took to do it 30 years ago. Even Yarborough himself, while being politically correct and gracious about possibly sharing the record, is not convinced there shouldn’t be some sort of “Barry B*nds” asterisk attached to it.

“It’s going to happen. That don’t mean I’m pulling for him,” Cale said in a recent news conference. “But, if he does it, I’ll be in good company. I hope he feels the same way.”

And the competition factor?

“I think it may have been harder to win [championships] back then than it is today because you had to compete against everybody,” Yarborough said, referring to the revamped Chase system of points. “I never was one to do much calculating. I went all out every lap I ever raced in my whole career. I’d still be doing it today. The only thing I can say is Jimmie better be glad I’m not racing with him today.”

And so it goes. I’d be willing to bet, and maybe the editors will help me out here by throwing in a totally unscientific poll (guess what? They did!) that next to Kyle Busch, the average Joe/Jane fan would have listed Jimmie Johnson as a second choice for the person they would have least liked to have won the championship this year.

Like I said, it’s not that I or everyone else dislikes Jimmie so much; it’s just that he’s, well, Jimmie Johnson! He inspires nothing, and sadly – for today’s race fan – a Chase Cup does not equal a Winston Cup.

Thank Brian France for that.

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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