By admin | September 9, 2009
By Richard Allen
It seems more than a little odd to even have a discussion as to whether or not a three time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion can drive a race car or not. But consider that whenever a conversation comes up about the #48 team it is often crew chief Chad Knaus or the Hendrick Motorsports organization given the credit for the teamâ€™s success. It is almost as if driver Jimmie Johnson is an after thought in regard to the running of the car, at least in the minds of some.
I, for one, am more and more coming to the realization that Johnson has been underestimated as a driver. Watching him handle his very loose race car in Atlanta while still running in the top-5 ought to serve as proof enough.
Many, or better said most, drivers were complaining that their cars were handling badly and were out of control on the worn Atlanta racing surface. Obviously, Johnsonâ€™s car was one of the loosest out there. However, unlike many of his complaining counterparts, he moved his car forward as they faded back.
Granted, Johnson ultimately spun but looking at how his car was driving, he should have spun many laps prior to when he finally did. And, after I had decided I would write this piece he broke the driveshaft while leaving the pits which resulted in a 36th place finish. However, I stand by my assertion that he was wheeling an ill-handling race car with great skill.
The charge Johnson made through the pack to get back to 8th place in Bristol after a bad pit stop had put him back to 21st was impressive. His similar charge through the pack in Dover to win that race earlier this season was no less outstanding.
Despite what you may or may not have heard, Jimmie Johnson is an excellent driver. It sounds ridiculous to even have to make that claim about someone who has accomplished as much as he has over a relatively short period of time, but sometimes it does need to be said.
Johnson does win because he has a great crew chief and team. But they are all part of a bigger organization, and Johnson is every bit as responsible for their success as the other pieces of the organization.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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