Jimmie Johnson No Longer the Nice Guy, and Others Aren't Digging That

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IJuly 12, 2009

BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 14: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, waves to the crowd during driver introductions prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 14, 2009 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Race car drivers have very good memories and I'm not talking about the wins and loses in their careers.

Race car drivers remember everything.

The LifeLock.com 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway brought that fact to center stage when two drivers decided it was time for some revenge against a fellow driver that had done them wrong.

Ironically they both were aiming for the same driver, NASCAR's champion Jimmie Johnson.

For most of his career, actually all of it, Johnson has been viewed not only as vanilla, but as the nice guy. Respectful but racy when needed on the track and a class act off of it. 

It's very rare that Johnson has been the center of controversy, other then when his car fails inspection and his crew chief takes a vacation, and you never hear of another driver that dislikes him.

But, there's a first time for everything.

The 2009 Sprint Cup Season has not been smooth for the champion, pit road mistakes are actually becoming as common for him as they are for teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and even though he has two wins, Johnson started the season by finishing 25th or worst at tracks that he has wins on in the past.

The champion is making a ton of mistakes this year.

Martinsville in April was no different. Johnson once again made a mistake, but one that led to his first win of the season.

Chasing down Denny Hamlin for the lead, Johnson hit the curb in turn three which shot him up the track and into Hamlin. Hamlin slid back to second as Johnson cruised away.

After the race Hamlin said that it was just racing and there was no hard feelings. 

The two seemed to be on the same-page, unlike Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, and let the past be the past and moved on. 

However, Johnson wasn't done making mistakes. 

More pit road problems were ahead for Johnson as well as a road course race that made him the center of attention again.

Going through the "S" turns in Sonoma with the laps winding down Johnson ran onto a rumble strip and shot into Kurt Busch, the contact with Busch sent him on the No. 2 for a hard ride and hit into the tire barriers. 

Both drivers shook hands after the race with Busch saying "I felt as if I had track position [on Johnson going into the turn] but I just didn't expect that from Jimmie. Trusting him a little bit...and I don't think that Jimmie Johnson could have won and I think he should have waited and been a bit more patient."

Three weeks later it was Hamlin and Busch who decided not to be patient and remembered how they were wronged in the past.  

On a restart with less than 20 laps to go in Saturday's race, Hamlin pushed Johnson, who was leading, into turn one and then he pushed him out of the way.

Johnson faded to the back end of the top ten and coming off turn four Johnson and Kurt Busch bounced off each other. For Busch, that was the last straw, he then turned right into Johnson to knock doors again. 

Hamlin finished fifth, Johnson eighth and Busch 17th who from the contact appeared to fade from a tire rub.

It appears now that both Hamlin and Busch should be even with Johnson.

"Just everyone going for a win," Hamlin said of the contact with Johnson in turn one. "And the last time I checked it got up under me in Martinsville so, everyone was going for a win right there and he's had his fair share and I was going for a win."

As Hamin spoke he shrugged his shoulders and didn't seem all that concerned with what had transpired. At least, his part in it. 

Busch meanwhile, was once again not mincing words about Johnson.

"The 48 [Johnson], you know we got run into in Somona, we got run into again. I'm starting to lose faith in his ability to be a three-time champion on the track. I'm disappointed, I gave him room and we got pounded into the fence... couple runs that were spoiled by the 48 car so I'm not digging it."

Johnson though, didn't responded in his champion-like voice, instead sounding like a race car driver saying he didn't know what happened. "I think the 24 [Jeff Gordon] got inside of me and got me loose and the two and I touched and he body slammed me after that."

Hamlin and Busch certainly aren't impressed with the way that Johnson has been acting, but it seems that since he grew his beard, Johnson has become human. 

Instead of being vanilla and doing everything right, he's making mistakes, he's making people angry and he isn't saying the politically correct things. 

Time will tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing.