Why Jimmie Johnson's "Greatness" Isn't Appreciated


5 NASCAR Cup championships. It’s something only three men have accomplished.

5 NASCAR Cup championships in a row. That is something only one man has accomplished.

The argument has been made that Jimmie Johnson, now the 5-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is the best driver ever to be seen in NASCAR. Even better than Dale Earnhardt, or The King himself, Richard Petty.

It’s a valid argument. After all, this level of dominance has never been matched, and may never be. But there is a reason why Johnson and the #48 team’s “greatness” is not, and may never be even partially, appreciated by many.

NASCAR today is much different than it used to be. Today, the NASCAR schedule practically consists of 10 races; the other 26 don’t really count for anything other than positioning yourself to get into the top 12 in points in an effort to make a run at the title.

Those last 10 hold all the weight.

It’s a system that allows teams like Johnson’s to experiment in the first 26 races so that, come Chase time, they’ve learned enough to be dominant in the last 10. It is something Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, have taken huge advantage of. And it’s something that, under the old system, teams like Johnson’s never would have had the wiggle room to do.

Under the old system, all 36 races held the same amount of weight. If a driver like Johnson struggled in an early race, such as say, Daytona, it would actually hurt him in his run for the championship. Under this system, a system some argue might as well have been built around Johnson, one or multiple bad results in the first 26 races doesn’t hurt him. All that counts are the last 10.

While the argument that today’s NASCAR is built around Johnson may seem bizarre if not completely ridiculous, it’s an argument that does hold some water.

When you look at the history of the Chase system, you’ll notice that it was implemented a year after Matt Kenseth, a Roush-Fenway driver, ran away with the title, defeating second-place Johnson by 90 points only after Kenseth finished dead-last in the finale at Homestead. Since 2004, the system has never been tweaked except to allow more drivers race for the title.

Had the Chase system been implamented in 2003, Johnson would have been the champion.

Other changes that have been made to seemingly accommodate Johnson are the current car, and the schedule.

The current car, introduced to the sport in 2006(before Johnson won his first title) and which made its debut in 2007, was brought in to “make the competition better”. Since it was introduced, Johnson has won the Cup title every year and has a proverbial stranglehold on the sport.

As for the competition, I certainly wouldn’t call it “better”.

The schedule has changed a little, but has helped Johnson in every conceivable way. The most notable changes include the elimination of Rockingham, where Johnson was winless in 5 starts, the addition of races in Phoenix and at Auto Club, where Johnson has a combined 10 wins, and the addition of Auto Club to the Chase.

So it’s no secret that, when you look over the changes made to the sport since 2003, every single one of them has benefited one man, and he’s won the last 5 championships.

It also doesn’t help that, through this era of complete dominance by one man, the Vice President of the sport has been quoted saying that the competition is the “best I’ve ever seen it.”

Jimmie Johnson has won the last 5 championships; a feat that nobody has ever come close to accomplishing, and one that perhaps nobody will. But when such a strong argument can be made that an entire sport; the points system, the car, and the schedule, has been molded to fit one competitor so perfectly, it’s hard to even tolerate, much less appreciate, that kind of “greatness”.

Even if it is genuine.

Tags: Chase Jimmie Johnson Matt Kenseth

  • http://Bumpdrafter.blogspot.com Joey Davis

    I agree, the chase definitely suits Johnson. Maybe mor weight should be given to the points positions after race 26- make them count. Also more points per win could help.

    Bumpdrafter.blogspot.com

  • Christina Albright

    I would like to start out with summing up this article in a few short words, which is utterly ridiculous! Anyone that so much as thinks that NASCAR has molded the sport to fit one driver is utterly ridiculous. What the 48 team has accomplished in the last five seasons is nothing short of being astonishing. To even think that NASCAR has such power and intuition as such would make a person think that some supreme being is running NASCAR. Jimmie still has to drive his car amongst 42 other teams and finish consistantly well week after week. His crew chief and pit crew still have to make the right calls and complete his stops and get him out on the track without making mistakes and adjusting to all the changes and regulations that pertain to the car in the last 6 years. And lets not forget the weather and track conditions. Are you now going to tell me NASCAR controls all of these as well. Wow, what a far fetched notion. It just sounds to me that someone is trying to grasp straws as to try to explain something that simply is just not explainable. Things change. Racing has changed. Embrace the change because it is what it is. It is still a sport. You still have to get out there every week and compete. You still have to adjust to all the variables out there. Car changes, track changes, tire compound changes and so on and because the 48 team has been able to read and adapt better than in other team out there does in no way make them any less a champion than a Petty or an Earnhardt. It just goes to show you that the 48 team has worked harder than anyone else right now and has mastered it. What Jimmie and Chad have as a chemistry is what makes this team work great together and it is what makes them who they are, CHAMPIONS! If you are a true die hard NASCAR fan, then you will realize that this team deserves all the accolades that this sport and its fans can give them instead of trying to make what they have accomplished together as a team somewhat less than what Petty or Earnhardt had done. Petty and Earnhardt was then and they mastered what was in front of them at that time and was what made them great for their time and made them Great Champions. Now it is time for the 48 team to basque in the light and shine as true Champions of our time. What the 48 team has accomplished is nothig short of being astonishing, fabulous, fantastic and whatever superatives you might want to add. So in closing if anyone out there still believes the meaning behind this article that NASCAR has somehow molded the “chase” to fit one particular driver, then I suggest that you do what I would do and that is submit your resume’ ASAP to NASCAR, because GOD or a supreme being must be running it and Mr Hendrick must be his right hand man. I want them on my side! Oh, by the way, I only live 30 minutes from Daytona. LOL

  • TERESA HURD

    the article is totally absurd, NASCAR would not change the system to fit one driver. under the old system, we would have results like the truck and nationwide series where the championship would probably have been decided weeks ago and they could have cancelled the last few races and the banquet could already be over with by now. the present system was put in place to give NASCAR a playoff format like other sports.
    Johnson is a great driver and combined with a great crew chief and Rick Hendricks equipment and voila the rest is history.
    Jimmie doesn’t need the rest of the fan base to respect him because the ones who do follow him are true and loyal fans. give me quality over quantity any day.

  • suit24

    as I see it yes it is good tha j.j. hAS WON FIVE IN A ROW BUT IF WAS NOT FOT THE POINT CHANGE HE WOULD NOT BE A FIVE TIME CHAMPION NOR DO I THINK HE WOULD EVEN HAVE TWO CHAMPIONS SHIPS I DO THING JEFF GORDON WOULD BE WORKING ON SEVEN AND TONY WOULD HAVE THREE AND YES DAL JR WOULD HAVE ONE , AS YOU CAN TELL I HATE THE CHASE AND I HAT BRIAN FOR MESSING UP NASCAR LIKE HE HAS CHANG IT BACK AND LET SEE HOW GREAT J,J, IS AND LETS FIND OUT HO THE BETTER DRIVER IS AND YOU WILL SEE JEFF GORDON NAME AT THE TOP .

  • dawg

    It’s a shame that anybody could think somnething like that, Jimmy and his crew deserve everything they have earned.