Jimmie Johnson: Why Prolific Racer Will Suffer Major Downfall in 2012

Justin Keith@justin5keithCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2012

Following the 2010 NASCAR season, Jimmie Johnson was on top of the world.

He had just captured his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship, a record for the sport.

2011 wasn't as memorable for Johnson. He struggled throughout the season but made the Chase and was poised to make it a six-peat. Unfortunately for Johnson, his amazing streak came to an end.

Tony Stewart won the 2011 championship, winning a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards and ending the incredible run of Johnson, one of the greatest drivers in Sprint Cup history.

Johnson spoke of his disappointment in the way his streak ended with Autosport.com: "When I look back on it, I find the way in which we lost it is the tough thing...we beat ourselves, and I just don't want to do that again."

As Johnson focuses on getting back to championship form, so too will his competition.

There are many drivers now in the way of Johnson reclaiming a title in 2012, including two of his teammates.

Hendrick Motorsports boasts some of the most talented and popular drivers in NASCAR. Along with Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. form a trio that is unmatched in the sport.

However, these drivers aren't the only ones standing in Johnson's way.

Last season, a mix of young guns and veteran drivers were in the mix at the end of the season, competing hard for that elusive championship.This year will be much of the same.

Young drivers Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin will all be more experienced and championship-tested.

Veterans Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch will all be in the mix as well, in addition to Gordon and Earnhardt Jr.

This season will provide Johnson with perhaps the most competition he has seen in a long time, calling into question whether he can dominate the Sprint Cup Series as he has in years past.

There is no questioning Johnson's driving ability. He will ultimately be considered the greatest driver of his generation, but it won't be his lack of ability that will keep him from winning races this season.

It will be the emergence of young drivers as stars and the consistent performance of veteran drivers that may keep him from his goal.

As the competition grows, Johnson's chances of taking over NASCAR again become very slim.

Although if anyone can do it, it's Johnson.

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