Jimmie Johnson Once Again Takes One for the Team with Hendrick Motorsports

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IMarch 5, 2010

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 28:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, stands by prerace stage prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 28, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

If there ever was a way to perfect déjà vu, Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson could easily put his name as the author if such a phenomenon ever existed.

Johnson, who is in his ninth season while driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, is once again giving his fans something to cheer about with his second consecutive victory last Sunday in Las Vegas.

Johnson, along with his crew chief, Chad Knaus, has once again demonstrated that it's not the driver who leads the most laps, nor is it the driver who has the dominating car, but instead it’s the team that knows when to make the right calls to put its driver in contention for the victory.

No one can ever say that Knaus hasn’t taken his job as crew chief for the No. 48 Lowes-sponsored Chevrolet to a whole new level, and at times it’s almost mystifying the way Johnson will usually find himself at the right place at the right time.

As strange as it may sound, it’s almost as if they have a crystal ball they look into, and after staring into it for a minute or two all the answers to get Johnson into victory lane mysteriously appear.

The chemistry that these two have is sometimes mistaken for a botched call by NASCAR, with some of the fans screaming that NASCAR wants nothing more than for Johnson to win another championship.

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So far this season alone in the first three races, we have seen a suspicious red flag for a pot hole in Daytona, a yellow flag at Auto Club Speedway when Johnson was entering pit lane, and malfunctioning caution lights in Las Vegas, which were all part of the conspiracy theory to keep Johnson within arm's reach of making the season-ending chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Through all the speculating along with the endless stream of doubters who have jumped on the Johnson hate bandwagon, the bottom line is it was the same old song and dance that Knaus cheated his way to their fourth championship.

Of course, let's not forget that NASCAR also played a role in handing the championship to Johnson, and without that gratuitous handout, maybe, just maybe, the odds of Mark Martin winning his first championship could have been trimmed by a significant amount.

Now, if NASCAR did indeed come to Johnson's aide, or let's just say that if NASCAR chooses to overlook some things during tech inspection, Knaus or any other crew chief would be foolish not to use it to their advantage.

It's OK in other sports when the obvious is overlooked even when it could have possibly changed the outcome of the game.

How many times in baseball have we seen the phantom double play? Does a player go back and tell the umpire that he forgot to touch second base?

Or a basketball player such as Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, who take four or five steps to get to the hoop when traveling could have been easily called.

Think about how many times you have broken the law—do you find the nearest police station and turn yourself in?

I’m not saying that NASCAR has gone to these measures to put Johnson in victory lane or to give him a slight advantage, but you have to give the team credit for keeping their eyes and ears open to spot these occurrences that can be used for their own personal gain.

How ironic is it that when the obvious gives your favorite driver the advantage you sit back and say nothing, but when it goes against him the battle cry goes out that NASCAR is playing favorites?

It doesn’t take long for the doubters to come out in full force with story after story, and theory after theory, without once giving the praise to Knaus for helping to put those four championships on his doorstep.

Instead the praise goes to NASCAR for the fine job they do looking the other way, while Johnson is left as the scapegoat once again.

Johnson has not been given the appreciation for being the driver behind the wheel; instead, he is put on the chopping block anytime he crosses the finish ahead of his fellow competitors with the headstone "He Cheated."

Yet when you read the comments from these detractors, the first thing written is NASCAR once again gave Johnson the race, but Johnson is once again taking the blame.

How do you point the finger at one person, yet you put the same blame on another, especially when he has no control over what the other person chooses to do?