This article is an opinion on the performance of NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and how consistently he has performed since his rookie year, no matter what points system or car type he’s been in. After I’m done, you just might understand why I’ve started see Johnson’s performance for what it is .
It’s amazing how people can dig up the hate on the guy. An acquaintance of mine had spouted his distaste for Jimmie after he won his fifth straight championship. According to his opinion, my peer declared that NASCAR made sure their golden boy won his fifth title and went on to declare that it was a crock of refuse. (But with the grittier word in place of refuse.)
NASCAR’s Golden Boy
But if you really have to know, NASCAR’s golden boy is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who accounts for over 50% of all merchandise sales of diecast, clothing & accessories of the sport. And as his performance has been declining, so too have been the sales, and NASCAR feels that pinch, whether you realize it or not.
If NASCAR were to actually back their “golden boy,” they’d do everything they could to get Dale Eanrhardt Jr. in the winner’s circle and out of his business suit where Dale Jr owns a lot of companies like television production companies, race tracks, race teams, real estate offices, bars and what not. They wouldn’t be applying so much parity to the sport to spread the wealth of winning if they had a “golden boy.”
Is NASCAR Really No Fun to Watch?
Another friend I was debating with said that NASCAR was no longer fun to watch because of Johnson. Sure… it can feel rather predictable when a superior team dominates its niche. At least in NASCAR. I too find myself sighing when Jimmie takes the lead early and doesn’t let go. When that happens, I just try to focus on where my guy is and pull for him to inch up there just one more spot as the race wears on.
So if you’re bored, change your focus so it’s fun again. There’s a reason you tuned into NASCAR in the first place and you need to tap into that reason one more time when Jimmie is leading the race. Of course that in and of itself can be a challenge when all ESPN does is show the lead car all by himself over and over while there’s superior racing going on behind him. It’s moments like this that I get a sudden sense of clarity as to why people sometimes call out the boredom!
Do You Think Conservative Driving Gets Into The Chase?
Because Johnson achieved a record fifth title, another acquaintance was trying to point out that all anyone had to do to get into the Chase for the Cup was run conservatively. Its during the chase that the real racing begins, or so he feels.
Neither angle is accurate. The top performing teams were the one’s that got into the Chase, plain and simple.
Why Jimmie Johnson Would have Contended For the Championship, Regardless?
Some say Jimmie would not have won the championships under the old rules but there’s two things working against that misnomer. The obvious is that the old rules are gone and moot. But for argument’s sake, if the old rules were in-place, I think he still would have had a run at the championship, regardless. Oh wait, drop that “argument’s sake!” He already did.
Since his rookie year Jimmie has been a contender. Under different points system rules he’s been in the top-5 in points at year’s end his entire NASCAR Cup Series career. In 2009 Johnson had the most wins. In 2008 he was 2nd in most wins, most top-5′s and top-10′s. In 2007 he had the most wins and the 2nd most top-5′s and 10′s. In 2006 he tied for the most wins and had the most top-10′s.
Johnson just took his fifth consecutive championship and he did so despite NASCAR making some serious, hard-core rule changes during those five titles. He’s also been in the top-5 in points at the end of each year of his career.
He and his team have manged to circumvent
- The old old points system,
- The switch to the COT,
- The swap-out from the wing to the spoiler.
In my book, this has to account for something. A testament to the man and his team’s versatility. In fact I’m going to back-pedal a little and say that if you want to see the points system reward conservative, or consistent driving, don’t forget that the old system allowed Matt Kenseth to win the title with only 1 win. In fact it was that win that seemed to have sparked the Chase and its new rules. Or at least was a part of the process that the media and fans took note of.
Most Top-5′s Since 2002
I thought I’d take a gander at who, since 2002 (Johnson’s rookie year in NASCAR’s Cup division), has been in the top five spots at the end of the NASCAR Cup season. I was surprised to see the following numbers roll off the stats:
- Jimmie Johnson – 9
- Jeff Gordon – 5
- Kevin Harvick – 4
- Mark Martin – 4
- Matt Kenseth – 4
- Carl Edwards – 3
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 3
- Denny Hamlin – 3
- Kurt Busch – 3
- Clint Bowyer – 2
- Greg Biffle – 2
- Tony Stewart – 2
- Kyle Busch – 1
Nobody else can come even close to Jimmy’s level of consistency with being in the top-five every year for the last 9 years. Or, every year of his career.
Even The Greats Took Breaks
When people look at two other names in the sport who have had more championships, Richard Petty & Dale Earnhardt, who both have 7 titles to their names, they did this across a number of years. Petty: 64, 67, 71, 72, 74, 75 & 79. Earnhardt Sr: 80, 86, 87, 90, 91, 93 & 94. Each man, achieving something that stands alone. Below are the multi-title holding driverss:
Compared to Lance Armstrong?
From day one, Jimmie has been gunning for the competition.
So if you find yourself having a rage-on with Jimmie Johnson for being one of the most successful drivers in the last 9 years, then so be it. But while you’re busy focusing on the down-side of things, take a moment and ponder that you are watching a team like no other in the modern era of NASCAR. Since Chad Knaus & Jimmie Johnson came together it’s been nothing but a piece of NASCAR history in the making. Until I wrote this, I didn’t realize just how strong Jimmie Johnson has been from day one in his Cup career.
At first I thought five in a row was huge, but I didn’t realize he’s never been outside the top 5 in his 9-year Cup Series career. For me, it appears that Jimmie Johnson’s run is to NASCAR as Lance Armstrong’s run is to bicycling!
Without meaning any disrespect, if you can’t wrap your mind around that, then I’m not sure what category of fan you place yourself in because there’s always something good about every scenario, no matter what. I know. My main guy is Ryan Newman.
Charts for the Eye:
Top-5 Ranked Drivers in 9 Years (*Denotes rookie year)
|2006||5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
|2004||5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
|2003||3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
|2006||5||D Earnhardt Jr.||6328||-147||36||0||1||10||17|
|2004||5||D Earnhardt Jr.||6368||-138||36||0||6||16||21|
|2003||3||D Earnhardt Jr.||4815||-207||36||0||2||13||21|
Jimmie Is Not The First To Do This:
Just to be fair, I thought I’d toss out that Jimmie Johnson does not sit alone in this category of 5 consecutive championships. He just became the newest member in the club where he’s joined the Montreal Canadians who won 5 in a row in the NHL (1956-60), or another driver, Sebastien Loeb in World Rally Championship has won 5 in a row (2004-08) in his racing league. The huge winning streak that I don’t think anyone will ever touch is that of Jahangir Khan in the sport of squash, where between 1981 and 1986, he won 555 consecutive matches. Wow. Wikipedia has a great page on Winning Streaks in Sports, if you’re curious.