Jimmie Johnson Closes In on Fourth Straight, NASCAR's Assist

Joel FuceContributor INovember 10, 2009

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 16:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 16, 2009 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

There is no way to argue that Jimmie Johnson is a great driver. Winning four straight cup titles, however, takes outside help.

NASCAR has made several changes to the structure of racing within the last decade, most of which has benefited Jimmie Johnson to no end.

NASCAR's initial move which gave Johnson an advantage was the move to warmer climates at the end of the season. For years Atlanta Motor Speedway has been the track where champions are crowned. Starting in 2001, however, the second race at Atlanta was moved out of the final position and further moved earlier in the schedule each year to the present. This gave way for warmer tracks such as Phoenix and Homestead for the later races in the season.

This benefits Johnson as it is one of the tracks that he has had mixed success at in the past. Moreover, the race was eventually moved from the playoff races, which allowed Johnson a better chance to gain the lead in points in the most important races of the season.

Another decision NASCAR has made with the final races of the season is to leave out the road course, which would provide an increase in diversity to the chase for the cup. This is important to Johnson, as he has never won on either road courses in the current Sprint Cup circuit. 

Also, NASCAR has also left off tracks that Johnson has never achieved a victory at from the chase schedule, including Chicago, Michigan, and Bristol, all popular tracks during the first portion of the season.

The final and most important move NASCAR has made that benefits Johnson is the addition of the Car of Tomorrow. This style of engine and body regulation allows for a more even opportunity for each drive to win or in an effect level the playing field.

This change allows for Johnson, a man who possess some of the greatest skill in NASCAR history, to have a clear upper hand throughout the season allowing for his skill to overcome the field who is at the same mechanical level.

This skill does not come easy, however, as Johnson will often be found with his crew late the night before, and early the day of any given race making final modifications on his car. His ability to focus on what must be done to achieve victory is second to none and his ability to handle a car on the track, short or long, is truly amazing.

This changes that NASCAR has made in the past decade were not to make Johnson a superstar, they have done so inadvertently.