Johnson driving to No. 4
By By Jeff Findley
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is becoming eerily similar to the 2008 season, and 2007 season, and 2006 season.
Jimmie Johnson’s Lowes team is in a class that is becoming untouchable from all other NASCAR teams. It’s Jimmie and everyone else. In the last two races, Fontana and Charlotte, Johnson has gone from 18 points behind Mark Martin to 90 points ahead of Martin. Johnson won both of those races.
Granted, there are still five races left in the Chase, with two of those races, Martinsville this week and Talladega next week, being “wild card” tracks. Those five races can, and most likely will, bring lots of juggling in the points standings. But the only constant in those five races will be Johnson at the top of the standings.
Its amazing how much better this team is than all the rest. Johnson doesn’t make mistakes and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, doesn’t make mistakes. What we are witnessing now will be considered one of the most dominant streaks in all of professional sports.
A string of four straight championships in today’s NASCAR world, where all the cars are basically the same, is easily comparable to some of the famous streaks in other sports.
To me, it compares to the New York Yankees five straight World Series titles from 1949-1953. Or UCLA’s seven straight college basketball titles from 1967-1973. Or the Boston Celtics’ eight straight NBA titles from 1958-1966. Sure those teams won championships in more consecutive years, but the big difference in Johnson’s case is the parity among the top, say, 20 teams in NASCAR.
Now, it looks like I am already crowning Johnson the 2009 Champion. The reason for that is, I am. I see nothing that the Lowe’s team has done, or hasn’t done, that will allow Mark Martin, or Jeff Gordon, or Tony Stewart to overtake them for the cup.
Now, with all that said and Jimmie Johnson already winning this guy’s championship for 2009, there are still five races left in the season and many stories developing leading into 2010.
Richard Childress is mad as a wet hen about his four teams’ showings this year. None of his drivers made the chase and Childress will not stand idly. He has already changed Jeff Burton’s crew chief and look for other changes coming soon.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr is terrible and Hendrick needs to decide if he wants race wins or sponsorship dollars and a popular driver. With three Hendrick teams occupying the top three positions in the points and the fourth team floundering in 22nd, something drastic needs to happen. What that is, I don’t know, but I would bet that Rick Hendrick has a plan. Stay tuned.
The half-mile paperclip at Martinsville is Sunday. The popular choice to win this race will be Jimmie Johnson, but my pick is Carl Edwards. But, Johnson will come out of Martinsville with his lead intact.
Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Post Searchlight, a sister paper of The Atmore Advance, in Bainbridge, Ga.