Does Jimmie Johnson Have the Whole Chase in His Hands?

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst INovember 11, 2009

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 08:  Crew members push the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet into the garage after being involved in an incident on the track during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Was this a reality check for the No. 48 team, or was it the racing gods letting NASCAR Nation know who is really in charge, after many fans chose to blame the team for the so-called boring chase that we have been witnessing.

Remembering that this opinion comes from those who have chosen to take a dislike to Jimmie Johnson, and not from the rest of the fans who have their own thoughts on why the chase hasn’t been exciting.

Opinions can and usually go both ways, which is what makes this sport so diverse when it comes to debating with one another.

So how anyone can put the blame on one team when there are 42 other ones out there with the same agenda, at times just doesn’t make sense.

And maybe this was the plan of attack that was needed to bring the chase back into perspective, when on lap three of Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway Sam Hornish Jr. knocked point’s leader Jimmie Johnson into the backstretch wall which could easily be looked at as a racing incident.

Hornish who pleaded his case after the race, and upon further review it was easy to see that he was also a victim just as Johnson was. "I got hit by the No. 00 [car of Reutimann] and was trying to catch it, and then got into Jimmie.

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I feel bad for him, because I didn't want to take him out," Hornish said. "It's an unfortunate set of circumstances. Obviously, you don't ever want to detract from the championship when you're really not even involved in it."

Johnson, who was once again dominating the chase with a 184 point lead and three chase victories before entering Texas Motor Speedway, got a very rude wakeup call before he even had a chance to make his first pit stop.

With only three laps in the books, Johnson was left with a race car that looked worse than a Saturday night demolition derby winner.

But the looks didn’t dissuade Johnson from having enough faith in his team to get him back out on the track, even though crew chief Chad Knaus thought otherwise.

Instead the battle cry went out, and the 48 team went to work with help from Gordon and Earnhardt’s team, in a last ditch effort to get the three-time champion back out on the track to salvage whatever points were left.

"We knew we had to get out there and make up some points. It was definitely not the day we wanted. We did not want to lose points like that. Luckily we had a big margin.”

"The first report to me was that the car was done and we were going to put it on the truck. And then luckily the guys were able to massage some things around up front and get the suspension to work and sway bar to work and off we went,” Johnson said.

"I wanted them to keep working on it, to find a way to get it on the track."

Determination always plays a big role when you are winning, and it can also speak plenty when your back is against the wall which has been the team’s biggest asset since the chase began.

The team also knows that championships are not only won on the track, but they are also won in the pits as well as in the garage.

You survive a wreck early on, and still salvage the best finish possible even though he lost 111 points to second place Mark Martin. Fate has a very funny way of creeping up on a driver, and it usually strikes when the driver least expects it or when he is most invincible.

Not that Johnson has ever portrayed himself in that way, but instead since the chase started he has said that the championship won’t be decided until Homestead, and that anything can happen along the way.

Indestructible, unbeatable, and unshakable is what many of Johnson’s fans have felt since the chase started, and now that the kryptonite has fallen within superman’s reach it will be interesting to see how the team will dispose of it for the next two races.

"We've got two great race tracks for us (coming up, Phoenix and Homestead).We didn't want this by any means but we're still in a great position and we'll go to Phoenix and race."

After spending more than an hour in the garage and going down 112 laps, Johnson was slowly watching his points lead dwindle thinking about the dilemma that he was in.

It wasn’t until after the race when Johnson said that, “I just wished that Sam Hornish didn't lose control of his car.

I wish he could have waited a little while longer to hit something. It was so early in the race and it was taking me out in the process.”

Johnson’s 73 point lead still makes him the biggest threat to win the championship, despite the fact that all the chasers below were finally able to make up some ground. But ultimately even though Johnson may have hid problems at Texas, there are no guarantees that he will have them for these last two races.

But then again, he could be on the receiving end with the racing gods taking center stage.