Is Jimmie Johnson good for NASCAR?
OK, let me rephrase that. Is the continued dominance of Jimmie Johnson good for NASCAR?
NASCAR has seen dominance from other drivers. Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. both won seven championships, and Jeff Gordon has won four titles.
Petty’s were spread out over 15 years, and only once did he win back-to-back championships. Earnhardt’s was spread over 14 years, with back-to-back championships twice.
Gordon’s four championships were achieved over a six year period, with back to back wins in 1997 and 1998.
These prior examples were achieved over long periods of time, and in Earnhardt’s and Gordon’s case, when NASCAR was experiencing tremendous growth. Johnson’s dominance comes at a time when seats are empty and TV ratings are plummeting.
History has seen its share of domination in other sports.
John Wooden coached the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball to 10 NCAA titles in 12 years. The New York Yankees have won 26 world titles since 1923, more than any other franchise in baseball history.
In a 12-year span between 1957 and 1969, the Boston Celtics won 11 championships.
Wins and losses are how we keep score. At the end of the regular season, teams with the most wins make the playoffs.
Cumulative scores throughout the year mean nothing. A 50 point loss by an NFL team is just a loss, not a loss of the entire season.
Racing is different. Like other sports there is a playoff system in place, but it is the only sport that keeps a cumulative score, and awards a championship based on overall performance, not wins and losses.
Teams with no wins make the playoffs, teams with the most wins do not.
NASCAR’s playoff system seems to play right into Johnson’s hands. Like other sports, even a modest regular season will still generate a berth into the playoffs. This is where Johnson seems to turn on the afterburners and show what he’s got.
First thing Johnson shows is you don’t have to run hard all year, just hard enough to stay in the top 12. Then, once the door shuts on 31 drivers at Richmond and the points reset, it’s time to play your hand.
This year, Dover is where Johnson played his hand. He showed for the fourth time in as many years, he is shredding the competition and dominating the Chase.
No, he doesn’t win every race, although it seems he could win, or run up front more than he does. Balance has to come into play somewhere. He is however making sure he wins the big prize, the one that matters.
There is something magical about that No. 48 team: a team that can almost win at will. A slow start out of the gate in 2006 didn’t affect Johnson at all.
He won six of the next nine races on his way to the first of three championships. All three secured by dominating overall the final 10 races of the season.
Turning on this kind of dominance just at the right time year after year can only be defined as suspect.
Multiple championships in record setting fashion might be good for Lowe's and Hendrick Motor Sports, but four championships in a row is three too many in a fan-driven sport that has only one winner per week, and, soon to be four years in a row, the same winner each year.
Fans get tired of seeing the same guy win all the time. Whispers of foul play, favoritism, or even cheating, go from whispers, to open conversation.
The voices of disgruntled fans can be heard on call in shows, blogs, web sites, and quite possibly, in the TV ratings and empty seats.