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What is the significance of five championships in a row?

By admin | November 22, 2010

By Richard Allen

Anyone who has read even just a few pieces posted on this site should know that I am not a fan of NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship. However, like the Chase or not, the significance of Jimmie Johnson’s accomplishment of winning five consecutive titles cannot be discounted. This is clearly a feat that deserves a high ranking place in racing history.

The trouble is, how exactly should five championships be ranked in the annals of history? Because the reality of it is that the modern NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is determined by a ten race sprint run at the end of the season.

A driver only has to be good enough to rank in the top-12 in order to have a shot at the season title. That means a driver could have a somewhat mediocre first 26 races, barely make the Chase field and then get hot at the right time and be declared the season champion. For example, Carl Edwards did not win a single race coming into the Chase but got hot near the end and placed fourth overall. Had he had his act together just slightly earlier in the year he might have won the Sprint Cup after a season in which he was less than stellar in the first two-thirds.

But with that said, the same type thing can happen in the NFL. In 2005, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished second in their division and were the 6th seeded team in the AFC playoffs. They got hot at the right time and went on to win Super Bowl XL despite not being the best team over the course of the entire season.

Obviously, the key difference between the NFL and NASCAR when it comes to determining a champion is that the NFL has essentially used the playoff system forever while NASCAR only adopted it in 2004.

For the record, Johnson has scored enough points to have won the championship under the old system only two times out of his five, in 2006 and 2009.

Many fans, me being one of them, view racing as a season long grind rather than a regular season/post season type sport. So, with all of Johnson’s championships having come under the Chase format there is at least somewhat of a dispute as to the legitimacy of those titles.

Nonetheless, whether you are a fan of the Chase or a Chase hater, there can be no denying that Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports crew have mastered the concept of out pointing everyone else under this format. They have learned how to play the game and they clearly do it better than everyone else.

It doesn’t matter whether you regard Johnson’s championships as more or less significant than those achieved prior to 2004, winning five times in a row is a remarkable feat. I guess it’s just too bad for his legacy that he doesn’t play in the NFL.

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Johnson claims fifth title as rivals falter

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3 Responses to “What is the significance of five championships in a row?”

  1. Joe from Pittsburgh Says:
    November 23rd, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Imagine if Earnhardt Sr. only had to do well at 10 tracks that consisted of say Daytona,Bristol,Atlanta,Martinsville North Wilkesboro Rockingham and Darlington among them. I’m sure he would have about 7-8 titles b4 he died. See my point? I understand that the chase is what they have to work with,but it doesnt mean I have to like it (I dont) nor do I have to watch it (I havent for a long while now) nor do I have to attend (gave up those Dover and Pocono tix a while ago as well). Jimmie Johnson might be Brian Frances champion,but hes not mine. Have fun in the offseason,or,as I call them now–breaks between Jimmies chase wins.

  2. Steve Says:
    November 24th, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I agree. Who’s to say that a driver of the past couldn’t have racked up more championships that what we are seeing with Jimmie if they had a Chase format back then. Its entirely possible and as far as I’m concerned you can’t compare a Chase champion with a 36 race champion. Its apples to oranges.

  3. coolheir Says:
    November 24th, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Its an extraordinary feat no matter how you look at it, just not sure why I’m not more in awe of it than I am. To see it done so easily and efficiantly somehow makes chad and jimmie’s accomplishments seem cheap or superficial compared to Petty’s and Earnhardt’s championships which were earned over entire seasons rather than abbreviated 10 race sprints.
    It’s kinda like a ’slow cooked’ home cookin’ kind of champion vs a ‘microwave’ or instant champion.
    …just trying to make an appropriate analogy here lol …you get the picture…just trying in my little brain, to justify why I’m not more impressed with all this than I am. -matt