It was all going so easily for a driver and crew chief combo that seemed unstoppable, as they accumulated NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships four years in a row, but the policies that would have penalized rough driving in prior years may just be their downfall with No. 5 looming on the horizon.
NASCAR listened and made some policy changes with double-file restarts, green-white-checkers, and the "have at it policy."
For Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, the ivory tower they have resided in may be equated to a one-term President moving out of the big White House.
All the accolades, trophies and financial gains will always be his and the accomplishments recorded in the history books, but at least for now the championships could end.
The Chase for the title is closer in points than it has ever been for Johnson with Hamlin behind by 14 and Harvick having a 38 point deficit. The "have at it" policy alone could be most dangerous for the driver of the Lowe's No. 48.
At the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Johnson will start near mid-pack in 17th position with a hungry Harvick starting 26th and Hamlin seeking safety back in 30th position. Peril is always nearby when a driver with so much at stake starts anywhere but up front.
Hamlin spoke before qualifying and basically said he didn't want to qualify at the back, but he knew he wouldn't be near the front. It appears his strategy is to hide near the back until the field gets stretched out and he has a safer path toward the front.
The "have at it" could wipe Johnson out with one miscue by another driver who is going to race all out with nothing whatsoever to lose. Even Harvick will be in danger of catastrophe when he begins his banzai charge on Lap 1.
So many drivers want to show what they have, as they audition for next year or try to gain momentum for their team.
The double file restarts have shown just what kind of chaos can break out with a missed shift or spinning tires by one of the leaders.
The green-white-checker scenario has show similar disastrous results when the drivers bunch up on the restart, going wider than they should and taking more chances in an attempt to capture that win.
It would be unfortunate for Johnson's failure to attain a fifth title being the result of a crash that would take his car out of contention, but we know it is possible.
The respect factor seems to be out the window as far as other drivers cutting him a break during hard racing.
The Chase may be a different animal this year than we have seen before. Though the three remaining intermediate tracks favor Johnson, he has not won or had to win at Homestead.
It seems very likely this year's Champion will come from the top three in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, but stay tuned to see if NASCAR's policies to create excitement don't do exactly that.