Did Kevin Harvick utter what every NASCAR fan is thinking after Sunday’s race at Talladega?
“No offense to [Jimmie Johnson], but somebody else needs to win,” Harvick said.
Johnson, who was sitting next to Harvick, replied: “Says who?”
Says everybody who’s not a fan of the No. 48 team.
“Everybody but them wants somebody else to win,” Harvick said. “I like Jimmie as good as anybody. But for the sake of the sport, one of the two of us needs to make something happen, I can promise you that.”
Harvick laughed while he said it, but the point was made. There’s no need to detail Johnson’s accomplishments over the last four years, because that’s beating a dead horse that’s developed a callous from getting hit so often.
Does NASCAR need a new champion? No offense to Johnson, but that’s what may need to happen. Don’t get me wrong here; Johnson and Chad Knaus are on a remarkable streak, one that will be rightfully recognized in the future as possibly the most dominant stretch in motorsports history. Hell, it’s sacrilege to many, but it’s getting to be a matter of when, not if, when it comes to Johnson breaking Richard Petty‘s and Dale Earnhardt‘s record for Sprint Cup titles.
We love dynasties in other sports, as long as they’re not our favorite team’s rival. Maybe that hurts Johnson’s cause, as he’s everyone’s favorite driver’s rival, because the Yankee-like reverence doesn’t seem to extend past the garages unless you’re a fan of the No. 48 team.
Don’t go blaming Johnson solely for NASCAR’s struggles. Yeah, yeah, TV ratings are down and so is attendance, but again, that’s another Barbaro that’s been beaten too much. Let the bruise heal.
However, this may finally be the year that a challenger rises to the occasion over the final races of the Chase and, at the very least, mounts a serious challenge to Johnson.
If you’re a NASCAR fan and not going to watch the next three races, there’s no hope for you. Harvick’s within striking distance and Denny Hamlin‘s a win or two positions away from passing Johnson. If Johnson starts next to Sam Hornish Jr. again this year, watch out; Hamlin or Harvick could be leading when we leave Texas.
If you’re so inclined, think of this playoff as your reward for the last four years of Jimmie dominance. The race to the title in 2004 set up a false sense of competitiveness when it came to future Chases, which also makes the last four years of Johnson-ville seem boring. And if you think that NASCAR needs to make tweaks to the Chase, this year is the perfect argument against that.
Hamlin and Harvick have great shots to dethrone the four-time champion. They’re far from guarantees, but this scenario hasn’t happened over the last four years. Embrace it.
Sure, Johnson may win a fifth straight title, and we’ll all look back on it with reverence later on. But there’s a chance that it could not happen. When was the last time that there was uncertainty with three races to go?
Of course, Harvick or Hamlin winning won’t be a miracle cure for NASCAR. Nothing much will change if Lord Vader is dethroned, and I doubt that the phones will light up at the Daytona ticket office if Happy is hoisting the trophy after Homestead. But at the very least, it will limit the complaints about the sport, right?
Oh, who am I kidding. People will find something else to complain about.