Jimmie Johnson has never struggled in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he has never had a winless season, he has never finished outside the top five in points and he has never struggled with a single NASCAR rule change...until now.
In March, NASCAR changed the unpopular rear wing on its Spring Cup Series racecar in favor of the traditional rear spoiler. Many fans disliked the look of the wing and in a year when NASCAR is "listening," which translates to low attendance and falling TV ratings, they decided to make the change.
Johnson took the change in stride in the beginning, so it seems, with three top ten finishes. Having won three of the first five races, there were many who thought the drive for five consecutive championships was healthy and alive.
Since Talladega, however, one finish of tenth is all the four-time champion has been able to muster in five races. He has fallen from first to seventh in the points standings and even has the Fox TV crew talking about what the Chad Knaus led crew needs to do to stay in the top 12 in points.
Points Position - third
Points Position - seventh
Take Sunday's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, for example. Johnson has six wins at the North Carolina oval.
However, on Sunday, the handling of his No. 48 Hendrick Chevy was so poor that he lost control not once, but twice, damaging his machine and effectively taking him out of the race. Such a performance is unheard of by the team that has dominated the sport for the last four seasons.
So what is going on with the Johnson/Knaus duo? Will the best team in NASCAR recover and go on to win an unprecedented fifth straight Sprint Cup Championship? Or will the streak finally end? We will all find out 23 races from now, but if you recall the memories of the last four years, you cannot count out Jimmie Johnson until the checkered flag has flown at Homestead.