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Johnson proving that he deserves more credit for team’s success than he is given

By admin | July 18, 2011

By Richard Allen


For the past five years Jimmie Johnson’s detractors have declared that the majority of his success has been due to crew chief Chad Knaus, the Hendrick Motorsports organization or even NASCAR favoritism. This season, the five time Sprint Cup champion is going a long way toward proving those who question his talents wrong.

Throughout its history there have been very few of this sport’s top stars to have received so little credit for so much success as Johnson. Perhaps his so called ‘vanilla’ personality or the disdain of many for his boss, Rick Hendrick, and his mentor, Jeff Gordon, have led fans, media and even fellow competitors to disregard Johnson as a top driver.

Often when asked to name the best driver in the sport names such as Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards or the Busch brothers are mentioned ahead of Johnson despite the fact that he has more championships than all of those drivers combined. He is merely the product of a system according to those who give him little credit.

In 2011, however, it would be hard to make the argument against Johnson’s talents as a driver. This past weekend’s race in New Hampshire is a great example of why. Time after time this season the #48 car’s pit crew have lost positions on pit road due to a myriad of errors. And not only did Johnson’s pit crew let him down during that race but he also spun late while racing with Juan Pablo Montoya.

“We finished awfully good with everything we went through today,” Johnson declared after his day in New Hampshire. “It’s just painful to have mistakes on pit road. It’s painful to get spun out on the race track.”

From the back of the pack after his late race spin, Johnson drove all the way back up to the front to capture a 5th place finish. That result vaulted Johnson all the way up to 2nd place in the Sprint Cup standings, which is an impressive position for a driver who has had to drive past so much adversity throughout the first half of the season.

“We’ve been working, we’ve been patient as a group trying to mature some guys and get stuff ready,” Johnson added after New Hampshire. “But we can’t have these mistakes anymore. We are way to close to the Chase, and we need to be right.”

For those who would argue that Jimmie Johnson is not so much a great driver as he is the product of a system, this season seems to be proving you wrong. It is he, and not the Hendrick way or Knaus’ mastery, that has overcome the difficulties team 48 has faced so far in 2011. It is he that is most responsible for their solid place of contention for a sixth consecutive title.

Topics: Articles |

8 Responses to “Johnson proving that he deserves more credit for team’s success than he is given”

  1. Ken Says:
    July 19th, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Gee Rich, I normally like your columns, but this on nearly made me heave my breakfast! First of all, I do not, nor have I ever, nor will I ever, like Jimmie Johnson. To me, he’s not vanilla. He is, along with his less-than-reputable crew chief, a sleeze-bag as far as I’m concerned. Blame it on all those cheating scandals, and having a felon for a car owner. Saying that, I don’t think it’s fair to throw his crew under the bus the way Cheatin’ Chad did last November at Phoenix, and the way you did here. No, Johnson can’t do it all by himself, and Chad certainly helps, but, like Jimmie, he needs that crew. After Jimmie’s less-than-complimentary comments on Sunday, if I were his pit crew, I’d either tell Mr. Johnson to go fly a kite and change his own tires, or I’d wait until the next race, and when Mr. Perfect comes in for tires and fuel, I’d let him sit there! Do it yourself, since you don’t like how we do it! Jimmie is becoming as big a cry baby as Jeff Gordon and Cryle Busch!

  2. Ken Says:
    July 19th, 2011 at 6:36 am

    Oh, and just to add to my comments about Mr. Perfect, if his crew is all that bad, how has he managed to remain second in the points? Oh, I forgot! Jimmie is just such a great driver!

  3. Sue Rarick Says:
    July 19th, 2011 at 7:44 am

    I am not a fan of Johnson’s but have always respected his driving skills.
    If anyone actually paid attention they would notice that one of the reasons Johnson/Knaus combo has worked so well is they compliment each other. There have been a lot of times where the car starting a race has been bad, but Johnson’s driving skill has kept them in the running till Knause tweaks it. Then Johnson can move up to the front.
    It’s that driver/crew chief meshing that has won them 5 championships. But it couldn’t have been done unless Johnson were a great driver.
    That said I still think Kyle is the better driver.

  4. mr clause Says:
    July 19th, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I just don’t get this vitriol aimed at JJ. If the way he called out his crew was so detrimental what do you have to say about the Bush brothers and Harvick along with others? Life sentences? The gas chamber?

    I think Chads weekly try outs are a much more demoralizing factor to team unity. JJ was correct in drawing attention to the constant pit road mistakes and he did it in a manner reflecting his personality and class as a champion, a five time champion.

    In my humble opinion Chad needs to set his pit road crew and go with that come what may. Give them time to gel and build a unified group instead of what he’s doing now. It was an idea but apparently isn’t working.

  5. Bill B Says:
    July 19th, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for that totally objective view Ken.

  6. Marybeth Says:
    July 19th, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Rich, It was my thought from the same ideas you offer, that proves JJ is only as good as his cc & pit crew & equipment.
    I read speculation about another crew swap at Hendrick, to which I replied:
    As long as we are speculating…how about they swap teams again, the 24 & 48 including crew chiefs. JG has 2 wins, JJ’s only win would not have been possible with Jr.’s commitment to pushing JJ, even over the finish line. It is Chad’s idea to make tossed salad of the pit crew every week. Alan does not have the pit crew problems that the 88 & 48 are having.
    I am enjoying Race Buddy & I will miss it. I could not get the video to work, but…I found a lot of interesting info in the comments, such as: “2:15pm; Jr.‘s engine is off. You can listen to it coming off the corner.” 2:35pm; Jr’s car has no power. & …has a miss in the engine.” etc. …? Jr. was driving one of JG’s leftover hand me down cars from last year at Loudon. JG was driving a new one.

  7. Marybeth Says:
    July 20th, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    After Chad has his weekly test to see who will be on his pit crew for the weekend, where do the other guys go…? The #88…?

  8. Steve Says:
    July 21st, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Ah yes, Marybeth is never one to comment on an article unless she mentions Jr. Stay on topic Marybeth. Not every article has to be about Jr.

    As far as Jimmie, the worst thing they can do is attack their pit crew publicly. His entire crew is looking over their shoulder every race as it is based on what happened last year during the Chase with the crew swap, so you can’t really blame them.

    And if I remember correctly, the pit crew didn’t spin all by themselves in turn 2 on Sunday, but Jimmie and Chads egos are equally as big so they need to blame someone.

    And Rich, while I agree with most of your articles, isn’t it a little early to be jumping on the JJ bandwagon. There is plenty of time for the media to do that when the Chase starts.