Can Anybody Beat Jimmie Johnson?

In the closing laps of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas, I witnessed something no race fan wants to see.  Your favorite driver leading the race and Jimmie Johnson’s race car pursuing him with the laps winding down.  The Lowe’s team had made a great call.  Four tires on the last pit stop, putting faith in their driver to pass the cars ahead of him on two tires.  He was fifth or sixth at the last restart, and only thirty or so laps left in the race.  The cars ahead of him had been pretty strong, and Jeff Gordon, who dominated the race but took only two tires on the last pit stop, was still handling pretty well.  But it took Jimmie only about fifteen laps to catch Jeff, pass him and set sail for the checkered flag. 

There had been a lot of good racing all day, and as a Jeff Gordon fan, it did my heart good to see him up front.  I hope it’s the start of something good for the 24 team.  But with Chad Knauss on the pit box, a flawless pit crew, and a great driver behind the wheel, the 48 team looks like a lock to win a fifth straight NASCAR cup title. 

Former dominant drivers looked merely human on Sunday.  Kurt Busch wrecked.  Kyle Busch ran near the front, but made a mistake on pit road that cost him a ton of track position which he never recovered from.  Carl Edwards ran pretty good all day.  Kevin Harvick had another good run, including a pass on Jeff that got him a second place finish. 

Some people who follow racing say that luck plays a part in winning races.  It seems to be true.  Jimmie had a mechanical failure at Daytona that relegated him to a thirty-something place finish.  Not unusual for the 48 team.  They have finished poorly at Daytona three of the last four years, and we who love NASCAR know how those four seasons turned out.  But others say that luck is just a reflection of preparation.  And Chad Knauss seems to be a master of preparation.  Parts don’t fall off Jimmie’s car.  He doesn’t have engine failures or flat tires.  Other teams have these problems, some more often than others, but they have them.  Jeff had a good run going at Daytona and crashed on the last lap.  He had a good run going at California until his engine started to lay down on him.  And this is a four time champion.  Things happen on the race track that don’t make a heck of a lot of sense.

Except to Jimmie. 

When you combine the taskmaster of preparation Chad Knauss, their Marine Corps precision pit stops, and a driver who knows how to wheel a loose racecar, it doesn’t look good for the rest of the competitors. 

Barring some unforeseen bad luck or Chad Knauss suddenly going on a junket to Aruba (paid for by Jack Roush) from which he doesn’t return, it looks like Jimmie will cruise to his fifth straight title.  The only way he might not is if he doesn’t make the Chase, NASCAR’s playoff at the end of the season, and if he keeps on like he is, the rest of the field may just be racing for second place all year. 

So, if you are in a NASCAR fantasy league, keep Jimmie on your team.  He’ll be good for at least a top ten each week.  Even his road racing skills are improving. 

I’m still rooting for Jeff, and I do like Jimmie.  But if somebody doesn’t step up and beat his tail, viewers may turn off the race and turn on basketball.  At least you don’t know who will win those games. 

It’s a long season.  I’m hopeful. 

I’m just not optomistic.


4 Responses to “Can Anybody Beat Jimmie Johnson?”

  1. Vicki Says:

    I’m a Jimmie fan so I’m good with him continuing to win. As far as the luck factor, he’s had some bad luck too (wrecks, running out of fuel, getting caught for speeding, mechanical malfunctions, etc) but between Chad’s ability to correct mistakes and Jimmie’s driving, they make it appear as if they don’t have as much as others.

    • babaje2 Says:

      Thanks, Vicki for reading my blog. I have been a race fan for almost twenty years and I’ve never seen anything like the display we’re witnessing right now.

      Just for the record, I don’t really believe in luck. Racing is a sport where the guys who have the goods know how to avoid bad stuff and overcome mistakes, and the guys who don’t have the goods always seem to be in a “tough luck” situation. Look at Robby Gordon last week. He was running pretty good and then cut a tire down and crashed. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen to Jimmie, Jeff, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, etc., much because they don’t set their cars up where they burn the tires off. But guys like Robby, John Andretti, you know, the back markers, always seem to be in some kind of situation that DW and the booth guys call “tough luck.” It’s not luck. It’s preparation. Good preparation eliminates the need for luck. And a driver like Jimmie eliminates the need for perfect preparation. What Chad can’t take care of, Jimmie can. It’s a rare day that their racecar is out to lunch off the truck. They are close when they unload on Thursday.

      Anyway, thanks again for reading my blog. I hope you will visit again and share with your friends.


  2. Ruth Sears Says:

    You are a true fan – Jeff should be proud.

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