Feb 24, 2013; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson celebrates in victory lane after winning the 2013 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmie Johnson Isn't Good For NASCAR...He's Great

The Jimmie Johnson debate wages on.  Bryant Douglass wrote about the topic on Beyond the Flag just the other day in his article – Jimmie Johnson Is Bad Business For NASCAR.

Much like Johnson himself, this is a polarizing statement.  Douglass made a lot of great points and did well not to get pulled into the fray.  In fact, I couldn’t agree more with a key statement he made as you’ll see later in my article.

I, personally, am a fan of Jimmie Johnson.  My favorite driver is Tony Stewart, but I like Johnson.  Easy for me to say.  Right?  My driver has won recently, but what of the countless others whose drivers have fallen victim to the Lowe’s 48 team over the better part of the last decade?

Well, tough. It’s the nature of individual sports.

I argue that Jimmie Johnson is not just good for business, he’s great for business.  Take a quick look at other sports and you’ll see parallels that have driven them to great popularity in recent years – namely, golf and tennis.  Tiger Woods was, and continues to be, loved and hated.  I’d venture to say a great many respect Woods’ talent, but hate to the see the same guy win all the time. Sure he had a recent lull following the revelations of his sordid personal life but he’s won four times in his last 19 starts.   During Tiger’s reign the popularity of golf has soared.

Another example is Roger Federer with his 17 career Grand Slam titles and hundreds of weeks with the #1 ranking amongst numerous otherworldly accomplishments.  Here again, during his time, the popularity of tennis has grown immensely.  The US Open in New York is the highest attended annual sporting event in the world.

The common themes are:

1. Both Tiger Woods and Roger Federer have consistent rivals. 

It was all about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson now we’re seeing the Tiger Woods – Rory McIlroy rivalry play out in real time.  Roger Federer has lost a step and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have played a large part in this.

2. We need enemies too.

So many fans are driven to tune in to see if these guys lose.  When they do, it’s a victory shared by all.  When they don’t, the allure grows stronger.

My point is this: Jimmie Johnson isn’t bad business for NASCAR…everyone else is.

NASCAR needs a challenger, or challengers, to rival Jimmie Johnson and heat things up.  It seems like every week you hear Larry McReynolds, DW and everyone else talk about Matt Kenseth being super fast.  Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart are always in the mix.  Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Dale Jr. are forces.  To say nothing of Brad Keselowski who, oh by the way, won the Cup last year.  So the reality is that this has already started to happen, what needs to happen next is that the rest of the field win with the level of consistency needed to effectively dethrone JJ.

After Jimmie, there is great parity in NASCAR, which illustrates just how hard it is to win at this level.  And parity is a great thing when that’s all there is – different drivers winning all the time.  This is simply not the case and I think it’s a much fairer thing to ask other drivers to elevate their games to beat JJ than to bemoan his excellence in the sport and hope that something somehow changes.  It’s up to the rest of the circuit to effect that change.  This is where I agree with Douglass’s point – that other teams need to get their equipment up to snuff with the No. 48 team.  And like Douglass, this is just my opinion.

Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski have done their part.

Now it’s someone else’s turn.

Agree? Disagree?  Let me know on Twitter @fordNASCAR


Tags: Jimmie Johnson

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