On Sunday, Jimmie Johnson claimed his 76th-career win, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time wins list. And there’s no indication Johnson’s finished, so expect him to surpass Earnhardt, more than likely, sometime this season. Add to that the fact that Johnson is just one championship before Earnhardt and another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Richard Petty, when it comes to his championship tally of six Sprint Cup titles. So when is Johnson going to get the fan respect he, obviously, deserves?
As Johnson racks up accolade after accolade, I’ve heard all kinds of excuses from fans. Here are a few of the more popular ones and my rebuttals:
1.) The current Chase system has handed Johnson championships, that it’s too easy for Johnson to win championships in the Chase.
RESPONSE: Personally, I think it’s harder to win a championship now. A driver can’t completely bank on an early-season run of wins and top-five runs to build up a huge lead and then relax and ride around late in the season, just riding that big lead into a title. A potential champ has to keep plugging away through to the end of the season. Besides, the format is what it is. Johnson’s playing within the system he races under, just as Earnhardt and Petty did.
2.) Hendrick Motorsports cheats — cheats big and cheats often.
RESPONSE: Okay, the No. 48 and crew chief Chad Knaus have been caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, so to speak, a few times, but then again, so have most other teams some time or another, especially ones that have been around for awhile. And how did you hear about such rules infractions? Through penalty announcements, that’s how. So it’s not like Johnson’s team isn’t penalized when it breaks the rules. Besides, weren’t Earnhardt and Petty’s teams slapped on the wrists their fair share of times. A big engine controversy comes to mind when it comes to Petty. Just sayin’
3.) Tougher competition back in the day. Johnson wouldn’t cut it back in the heydays of Earnhardt and Petty.
RESPONSE: Is that why win margins generally more closer now? Is that why there are more race winners now? Hmmmm, seems like competition is tougher now. I’ll rest my case with those two questions.
4.) NASCAR is giving championships to Johnson. The sport’s fixed.
RESPONSE: Really!?! Break out those aluminum foil hats and hand them out at the looney bin. Seriously, folks. This ins’t the WWE. Most have accepted that the WWE is scripted and watch anyway, because it’s no secret it’s scripted. Heck, the WWE itself claims to be “sports entertainment” not “sport.” When it comes to something claiming to be a real sport, why follow it if you think it’s fixed? Wouldn’t that be a waste of time? I’m not trying to drive away fans, here, but if you’re so sure the sports fixed/scripted, why not find something better to do with your time on Sunday afternoons instead of sitting on the couch watching something so corrupt?
5.) It’s Chad Knaus. Johnson wouldn’t be able to cut the mustard without Knaus atop the pit box. Taking this one a step further, Johnson wouldn’t win seven on a team other than Hendrick.
RESPONSE: Maybe so, but maybe not. I’m guessing we won’t know, at least not anytime soon. But does that even matter? Petty had Dale Inman calling the shots throughout most of his career, but I don’t ever hear that Petty wouldn’t have won sevent Cups without Inman. I also haven’t heard that Petty wouldn’t have won seven had he been driving for, say, the Wood Brothers or for Junior Johnson. Earnhardt won six of his seven championships with Richcard Childress Racing. Would he have won those six had he been at Roush Racing during that time? We’ll, obviously, never know.
There are others, but the aforementioned are some of the recent ones I’ve heard as they popped into my head. And before you suggest it, I’d like to clarify that I’m not a Johnson fan, but I’m not a Johnson hater, either. I just think it’s time we give this guy the respect he so rightly deserves.
Those are just my two cents. Take them for what they worth. That would be acout two cents, I guess.
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