By Brody Jones
Domination, thy name is Jimmie Johnson. Well, at least in NASCAR circles as of recently. After Jimmie managed to rally in the last two races of the season at Phoenix and Homestead to wrest away the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship from Denny Hamlin, it should silence all of the doubters that Jimmie Johnson may, arguably, be this generation’s greatest stock car driver, if not one of the all-time greats. Most fans are already trying to write his championship epitaph in 2011, but whether you like his dominance or you loathe it, the cold, hard fact is that Jimmie Johnson is still the odds-on favorite to be sporting a “six-pack” in November, and I’m not talking about a six pack of Budweiser or even his abs after a P90X work-out either. And in my first column as part of the Fronstretch.com fraternity, I will explain to you, my fellow readers, why Jimmie will win six straight championships.
Some people arguing against Jimmie’s 6th straight championship have used the laws of averages argument and, although this is nowhere near the same type of competition level as NASCAR, look at the fact that Frank Kimmel won eight, count them, eight straight championships in the ARCA Racing Series. Granted, Kimmel won most of his championships against less-than-capable competition, but he had the top-of-the-line ARCA resources for many years, as does Jimmie Johnson. So it is not entirely unfathomable for Jimmie to win two or more consecutive championships to add to his growing total. His detractors could very well point to guys like Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, or even Kyle Busch as his potential successor. But Carl & Harvick have yet to consistently put together the consistency needed to be a championship team, Hamlin still has to shake off his post-season “choke-artist” label, and until Kyle Busch decides to focus his energies on the Cup Series instead of trying to embarrass the Nationwide & Truck Series, he can’t yet be taken seriously as a championship threat.
Speaking of consistency, year-in and year-out, the #48 team keeps showing the consistency needed to win championships. Last year found Jimmie and company in uncharted waters, having to embrace an underdog role with two races left. After Texas, everyone had assumed Jimmie’s team was cracking under the strain and pressure. But in the end, it was Denny Hamlin’s crew whom, despite the mind-game efforts of Mike Ford, cracked under the pressure. Jimmie not only wins races, but he is almost every weekend in the top-five or top-ten and that kind of consistency is going to be tough to counter-act with NASCAR’s new points-system, which embraces consistency more than before.
And while I’m on the topic of the points system, is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the maximum amount of points you can accrue under this new points system is 48, therefore proving, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that no one can do better than “48” once again. Call it a coincidence, call it an omen, call it what you will. But in all seriousness, maybe it’s not too far off-base to think that Jimmie could very well figure out how to beat this points system as well and win his 6th straight championship. Hopefully then it will finally silence the haters who say that Jimmie’s championships are only because of his proverbial ace-in-the-hole, Chad Knaus.
Which brings me to the most valuable asset of Jimmie’s quest for the “six-pack” in Chad Knaus. For as much criticism as he gets for bending the rules until they break from time to time, the fact remains that the best crew chief in NASCAR today is Knaus. His ingenuity is nearly on the level of the late Smokey Yunick when it comes to his mechanical prowess. Not to mention that while Rick Hendrick shuffled crew chiefs for three-fourths of his organization, which driver-crew chief combo stayed intact? That’s right, NASCAR’s version of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, or whatever cliché tandem you want to insert in this sentence has remained together and therefore, all the other teams chasing for a championship have to figure out a way to top the modern-day Merlin of mechanics and the Rembrandt of the race track in Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson.
So although Jimmie may not be the most exciting or colorful personality in the garage area, what matters is when the chips are down, much like the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”, Jimmie Johnson knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. In the end, that’s all that really matters because come November in Homestead, King Jimmie will once again be a merry soul as he holds his championship coronation once again. The other 42 drivers are all surely scheming and plotting to over-throw the modern king, but all of the best-laid plans will still fall short as Jimmie will once again be champion and further prove why he’s not just the greatest stock car driver in America, but perhaps one of the greatest athletes that the viewing public has every laid witness to.
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