"We want to see sunshine between the cars," was NASCAR president Mike Helton's bump-draft warning to the field in Sunday's drivers meeting before the Amp Energy 500.
Point’s leader Jimmie Johnson took Mike Helton’s warning literally, when he chose to ride out the early stages of the race with plenty of sunshine between him and the race leaders.
Johnson, who started the race on the pole, quickly began moving backwards and by the end of lap 10 he found himself in 31st place.
Even with the T.V. cameras focusing on the point’s leader, Johnson made it obvious that there was nothing out of the ordinary going on except that he was following his pre-race game plan.
And out of the ordinary, or unorthodox is probably the best way to dissect the season that Johnson and company have been having, because of the way they have chosen to go after their fourth championship.
One could easily say that the law of averages would be a very poor example of how this team has chosen to go after their fourth championship, especially when you compare how championships are supposed to be won with the other sports.
And so far this season, the No.48 team has used a variety of different strategies to take over the top spot, including playing it safe this past weekend.
Wins, wins, and even more wins is how championships are supposed to be won so they say, but that’s not the case in auto racing where good finishes can be just as important as a win because of the point system that is used in the series.
Points are earned depending on where a driver finishes the race, along with additional points for leading a lap and also the driver who leads the most laps.
So take into account just how important these points are, along with a good race strategy, coupled together with good decision making before and during the race.
This is about as picture perfect as it gets as long as they all work together, and this has always been the key to the No. 48 team’s success especially once the chase begins.
So what does Johnson do knowing that Talladega is not one of his stronger tracks?
He stays out of trouble by riding in the back of the pack just looking for a good finish, and at the same time he was able to add another 66 points with a sixth place finish extending his points lead to 184 over second place driver Mark Martin.
“I can say that the thing I'm really proud of through the Chase so far is that some people may say Talladega was a lucky race for us, but I see how we earned this thing and made good decisions.”
Nowhere does it say that a championship had to be won by the driver who has the most wins, and that theory was last proven when Matt Kenseth won the championship with only one victory back in 2003.
Johnson along with his crew chief Chad Knaus already have three wins in the chase to bring their total to six on the season, and still the detractors are crying foul saying that what Johnson did on Sunday was a cowardly move by not mixing it up at the front of the pack with the other drivers.
Call it what you want but they are looking at the bigger picture, and with the 118 point cushion they had going into Talladega why would they sacrifice getting caught up in the big one and losing those valuable points?
Championships in NASCAR are won because a team uses their intelligence along with common sense from the beginning of a season, instead of a lead foot with no direction as to how they will approach the season.
As it is Johnson right now is in the driver’s seat, and his destiny lies in his own hands with the championship well within his grasp as long as he keeps his focus.
But even he knows that bad luck can strike at anytime, and easily wipe away his championship dreams.
Focus, focus, and more focus is how you get the wins, wins, and more wins which can easily translate into championships if it’s practiced week in and week out.
“I'm not going to let up and lose focus to the job I need to do and allow the championship to be in the forefront of my mind until it's mathematically locked out.
I can lose 165 points next week if I miss a shift and blow the engine at the start of the Texas race and Mark has a perfect day.”
Johnson also added that, “When I think about luck, it's hard for me to think too much about it."
"I guess I'm maybe trying to ignore it in some respects and focus on the things I can control and what the team does and just haven't paid too much attention to those things.”
So in a nutshell, you have to wonder if this testimonial is posted somewhere in the shop reminding each team member that, “The winner ain't the one with the fastest car; it's the one who refuses to lose.”
These were the words of wisdom from the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.
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