Hendrick's super-speedway woes no hinderance to Johnson

The state of Florida has a love/hate relationship with Jimmie Johnson.

For the past three years, south in Homestead, Johnson has been presented with the NASCAR Sprint Cup after finishes of 5th and 15th, the former of which is just one spot away from his career average finish in the Ford 400. However, four hours up the I-95 in Daytona Beach, the story is completely different. Last week, while running 5th, like something out of a GEICO commercial, Johnson hit a pothole, blew a right rear tire and damaged a rear axle. He was forced to retire with 23 to go. Johnson wound up placed 35th, marking his third straight DNF in the Daytona 500 and the fourth straight time he’s finished 23rd or worse at the World Center of Racing. What’s worse is that its not just Daytona. Johnson has also struggled at Talladega recently, wrecking out twice in his last three races there. You’d never know it but all-in-all, Johnson has seven DNFs in his last 10 super-speedway events. The news gets worse for Hendrick Motorsports. It has not been only Johnson struggling at restrictor plate tracks.

Daytona 500
2007 22 23
2008 10 28
2009 8 22
2010 14 19

Coke Zero 400
2007 18 13
2008 19 24
2009 9 27

Aaron’s 499
2007 7 20
2008 19 12
2009 17 28

UAW-Ford 500
2007 24 21
2008 16 22
2009 8 16

15 20

For the last three years, it’s been checkers or wreckers for Hendrick Motorsports at super-speedways. While they have collected 18 top 10s (including two wins, both of which came in 2007), they’ve finished 25th or worse 21 times, including 18 DNFs. So unfortunately, its safe to say they’ve done more of the latter. For the normal driver, like Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon, a 30 something-th place finish in the season opener would and has foreshadowed bad luck and another in a chase race would and has ended their championship hopes. In their eyes, Hendrick’s super-speedway program and the luck that goes along with it must improve. However, Johnson could care less. In both instances, Johnson’s fate was exactly the opposite. After DNFing in the 500 in 2007, Johnson went on to win three of the next five races. The following year, he proved it wasn’t a fluke by finishing 27th in NASCAR’s Super Bowl before going on to win four chase races. Last year, Johnson placed 31st in the 500 and DNFed in the pre-chase Talladega race but used an average chase race finish of 7th to propel him to a third straight title. Johnson is right back at it again this year: after the aforementioned hard luck DNF in the 500 this year, he evened his luck meter back out by getting the timeliest of all cautions which he used to win at Fontana. Surely Johnson will take the Sprint Cup every year if it means he is to wreck out of a few super-speedway races (even if one of them is the Daytona 500) but it is pretty scary to think that he could be even better than he is right now and even better than he was in 2006 when he posted a 9.6 average finishing position, the best in NASCAR history since his Hendrick teammate, Gordon posted a 7.4 average finish in 2001.

With 20+ years still ahead of him, simply put, by the time his career is said and done (and, if he keeps this up, perhaps even before), Johnson will go down in history next to Dale Earnhardt amongst the best the sport has ever seen.

Enjoy what you’re seeing, folks. It is something special.

Tags: Dale Earnhardt Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Motorsports Jeff Gordon Jimmie Johnson Mark Martin

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