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.
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