The 2009 season has just ended as most fans thought it would: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's sponsored Chevrolet, making history by winning his fourth championship in a row.
Never in the history of the sport has a driver been so unwelcome and scrutinized for winning a championship while, at the same time, putting his name in the NASCAR history books.
Johnson, who put his name next to a 30-year-old record just last season by winning his third championship in a row, was able to rewrite that same record on Sunday when he finished fifth to capture the 2009 Sprint Cup Championship, making it four in a row and making him the sole owner of the record.
But this season, as well as the chase, was different than in years past, and it was easy to realize by all the negative comments the team was receiving from fans on various NASCAR social sites.
Johnson was able to bring the NASCAR boards to a standstill with all the talk surrounding how he single-handedly made the Chase one the most uninteresting events the sport has ever witnessed.
The accomplishment will probably never be duplicated, but that didn’t matter to the thousands of fans who expressed their disgust with NASCAR for allowing the team to push the limits of the rulebook.
When NASCAR confiscated Johnson’s car after winning at Dover, along with his teammate Mark Martin’s who finished second, officials found the vehicles to be pushing the limits and warned the teams about being to close to the allowable tolerances.
The news sent a wave of uncertainty with many saying that somehow Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief, had found a way to manipulate the rulebook just as he had done in previous seasons.
In their own defense, NASCAR once again confiscated the same two cars following the race at Kansas a week later, hoping to put to rest the accusations that took place just a week earlier.
In other sports where performance-enhancing drugs are always the culprits, NASCAR has to deal with the manipulation of one of the thousands of parts that go into building these high-speed athletes on wheels.
An athlete doesn’t become Superman overnight when they begin to take these supplements, but there is a process that takes place in order for them to become fully affective.
Weightlifting, along with a stringent conditioning regime is the only way to get the drugs' full effect.
There are also ways that these supplements can be masked, just like there are ways of masking one of the many thousands of parts it takes to build a Cup car.
If you have ever watched a Cup car go through tech, there is no way they can check every part and there is a really good possibility that something can be missed.
As much time as Knaus spends around the car, there is a really good possibility that he has found something that could be within, or outside, the rules to help enhance the car's performance and, with time, has found a way to use it to his own advantage.
Either way, Johnson still needs to perform and his accomplishments have been proof that he has the driving skills to win championships. There are no guarantees, even if an enhancer is used, that luck or driver error couldn't easily ruin a good day at the track.
So until NASCAR can prove that Johnson’s cars were illegally altered (and it's too late now because the season is over), there will be those who choose to put an asterisk next to his four championships, and the record as well.