Give Credit Where Credit is Due to Johnson, Knaus
With Jimmie Johnson winning his fifth consecutive championship, many claims will be made among the NASCAR community. Oh, sure, there will be plenty of fans who say they are turned off by it but they still have their share of opinions on the matter. Would it be fair to call the five-peat controversial? Hard to say, but it definitely has plenty of people stirred up and making claims about the achievement and whether or not it is relevant.
That being said, here are five specific claims being made on the fifth in a line of dominance that has never been seen before and may never be seen again:
The championships are irrelevant because of the Chase – If I had a dime for every time I heard this, I’d be one rich gal. It also gets under my skin. Everyone loves to hate the Chase, the system that has determined the championship winner for the past seven NASCAR seasons. The number one argument people like to make against the Chase is that it makes the regular season irrelevant and the champion only has to be the best in the last 10 races.
While there is a smidge truth to that, it’s not like the first 26 races are completely irrelevant. Because of the bonus points NASCAR awards the teams for winning races during the regular season, getting those bonus points are essential. As close as the points battle was this season, if Johnson and Knaus had just shrugged away the regular season they wouldn’t have won the title.
And Knaus and Johnson do not just shrug away the first 26 races.
Heading into the Chase this year, Johnson had five victories, just one less than Denny Hamlin. That means that only 10 points separated the two, and Kevin Harvick was only 20 more points back (sound familiar?). In 2009, they had three wins in the regular season. In 2008 they had four. Six in 2007 and four in 2006. Plus all their closest competitors also had their fair share of wins. You won’t find a Chase champion that didn’t have a successful regular season. Johnson and company just found the perfect way to manipulate the system.
Jimmie Johnson makes the Chase irrelevant- “Jimmie Johnson is the PERFECT reason why NASCAR needs to get rid of the Chase!” Neither of the last two arguments make sense to me for one simple reason: All 43 drivers are playing by the same rules. Johnson isn’t given a special set of rules for the Chase, they just know what needs to be done to win the championship.
Like The Chase or not, you can’t blame NASCAR because the No. 48 team has figured out the best way to make sure they are holding that trophy at the end of the year. It’s not NASCAR’s job to keep changing the system until the other teams are able to figure it out, it’s the race teams’ jobs to figure out a strategy to win the title.
Johnson hasn’t made the Chase irrelevant. If anything, Johnson has made the other teams and drivers irrelevant.
Jimmie Johnson is bad for the sport- I’m undecided here. I definitely don’t think this dominance thing is good for the sport, regardless of all the comparisons Johnson likes to make towards golf and tennis players. However, I’m going to stop short of calling it devastating. After all, NASCAR still gets plenty of mainstream attention because of the title run (even if SportsCenter can’t spell his name right). Johnson’s AP Male Athlete of the Year is a prime example of this.
I’m also not sure how to react to the fans who say “I’m not coming back next year if Johnson keeps winning!” There have been fans who have said that ever since Johnson started this title mount, and most of them come back. But with attendance and TV ratings decreasing at an alarming rate, I’m not sure we want fans even threatening to leave. He has to stop eventually, though, right?
Jimmie Johnson is the greatest driver in NASCAR history- There are plenty of good arguments you can make here, especially with NASCAR releasing some statistics that show this was the most competitive season in the history of the sport. However, there are also some arguments against it considering the fact that NASCAR used to be a lot more, let’s say, “grittier” than it is now. While these cars are certainly not easy to drive by any means, things like air conditioning and some of the safety features the cars have now didn’t exist back in the day.
It’s almost impossible to name a “best driver ever” in this sport. Sure drivers like Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty won seven championships, but they weren’t in a row. And, as mentioned above, there was plenty different with the series then than the way things are now. I think it’s safe to say, though, that Johnson is definitely one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history.
Jimmie Johnson can’t be stopped- No one ever considered Johnson to be a threat for two in a row, let alone five in a row. Winning four in a row broke Cale Yarborough’s record of three consecutive titles, and now no one knows when Johnson will stop. Some have even wondered if he’ll reach John Force’s mark of 10 championships in a row (Lord help us all).
NASCAR has said they may be making some changes next season and that might be our best hope for a new champ. Then again, Knaus and Johnson may just find a way to manipulate that system as well.
Look, I’m not asking anyone to like or pull for Johnson. Shoot, I tried my hardest to be optimistic about watching history being made but there was still disappointment in watching an exciting title have the same exact ending as the last four seasons. It’s like a bad re-make being made over and over and over. However, we need to give credit where credit is due. The No. 48 team may make it look easy, but if it was then everyone else would have had it figured out by now. 20 years from now we’ll look back and say, “That was pretty cool.”
For now, just hang tight. It has to end eventually.