NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson: Is He Lucky, Cheating, or Talented?
Jimmie started the 2013 season with a win at Daytona. In November 2013 he won his sixth Sprint Cup championship.
Looking at the stats, his races and his seasons, it’s very arguable that Jimmie is one of the true talents of his generation.
If this is true, then why is he so hated?
Why do fans feel angry when he pulls into the lead?
By all accounts from drivers and others that know him, Jimmie is genuinely a nice guy.
But when he pulls into victory lane, you can hear the groans and see the fans filing out of the stands.
Maybe there is more to the story of his success. What do you think?
Is He Cheating?
There have been many instances where questionable problems arise in pre and post race inspections.
- August 2013: It took Knauss and the team multiple times to pass pre-race inspection. When Johnson did go out to qualify, he won the pole position. Kyle Busch, who got second spot, suggested that delaying the inspection allowed Johnson to qualify on a better track.
- July 2013: Johnson failed a post-qualifying inspection in New Hampshire. The front end of his car was found to be too low. Johnson was moved to the back for the race start.
February 2012: A C-Post Issue discovered with Johnson’s car pre-race
October 2011: Crew Chief Knauss overheard telling Johnson to intentionally wreck his car if he wins the race.
June 2007: Failed fender inspection pre race.
February 2006: Raised rear window fails post-inspection.
March 2005: Johnson’s winning car fails to reach minimum height requirement in post race inspection.
While illegal modifications are nothing new in Nascar---just check out another famous Johnson, Junior Johnson----the list of modifications that were caught by Nascar casts suspicion over Johnson and his Crew Chief Chad Knauss.
Those who dislike Jimmie wonder what he’s been able to get away with and if cheating is the explanation for why his cars seem to go so fast, pass with relative ease and win championships year after year.
In August of 2009 Johnson took advantage of a loophole called “the lucky dog.”
(Basically, the lucky dog gives the first driver that is one off the lead lap a chance to rejoin the field.)
Johnson was three laps behind after having a power problem and many felt that the lucky laps went too far in allowing him back into contention.
Is He Lucky?
So much of Nascar racing involves luck.
You can do everything right but if the guy in front of you wrecks, he may take you and a good chunk of the field out of contention. Even the most skilled drivers can’t avoid the mistakes of others all the time.
But then there’s a different kind of luck.
Ask Nascar fans and they’ll tell you how many times flags and cautions have favored Jimmie during a race.
For example, in February 2012, a late caution was called at the Auto Club Speedway when Johnson was already in the pits. This allowed Johnson to get out of the pits early, beating the race leaders and going on to win the race.
Is He Talented?
Jay W. Pennell of All Left Turns argues that “luck wins races, not championships.” http://www.allleftturns.com/luck-wins-races-not-championships
Knauss, the rest of the racing team and Johnson himself contend that part of good racing is taking advantage of lucky moments and turning them into wins, something not all drivers can do.
Knauss contends that “When that opportunity arises, that's when you have to have the team that's capable of reacting,”
Johnson races with skill and determination. Perhaps he leads because he is one of the best. His ability to work his way from back to front, the speed of his pit crew, his driving skills and athletic skills may all combine to give him almost supernatural talent and ability.
Johnson Wins Fourth All-Star Race
Jimmie Johnson cruised to an easy victory in the May 2013 All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Johnson's win surpassed Gordon and Earnhardt's records.
Johnson is also surpassing the beloved Number 3 in other ways as he got his second Daytona win in 2013, more than Earnhardt.
Could Jimmie go on to be recognized as the greatest driver of all time?
The Jimmie Johnson Curse
Love him or hate him, Nascar has a real problem on their hands if Jimmie keeps winning races and championships. While it is great to have generational talent, the predictability of a Johnson victory or top ten finish has made the races, well, boring for many fans.
Fan favorites such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Jeff Gordon come in behind Johnson. His dominance of multiple laps in multiple races does not create excitement or suspense for race fans.
Just as Nascar is trying to expand its fan base and shed its image of a southern white male sport, Johnson’s dominance may be taking some of the thrill away.
And because he has such as good guy image, he’s not even a guy we love to hate like Kyle Busch who plays the part of the arrogant bad guy to the hilt.
Will We Ever Know?
While Johnson certainly has his fans, he has his share of enemies too. Those that hate him look at the past scandals and suspicious cautions and wonder just how lucky one guy can get.
Those that love him point to his talent, skill and all around nice-guy attitude as a reason to love and embrace him.
It's all speculation at this point. We may never know the real story.