Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Jimmie Johnson Is NOT NASCAR's Greatest

Having won a sixth Winston Cup Grand National title, Jimmie Johnson is now being hailed as the sport's greatest driver.   The problem with this argument is it's not true.

The argument for Johnson as NASCAR's greatest stems from the myth that he has competed in NASCAR's most competitive period ever.   It's the argument that more cars finish on the lead lap than ever before, and it also includes what are ostensibly massive rule changes in the racecars with the cars changing from the raked aerocoupes of 2002-7 to the COT of 2007-12 and the Generation Six racecar of 2013.   Then  there are the changes in restart procedures and implementation of NASCAR's ludicrous "Lucky Dog" rule giving back laps to cars rather than having them race to unlap themselves.

It's an easy argument to debunk.

Johnson has competed in NASCAR's Dead Lane Era - the era when passing is rare and the technology arms race has been at its highest.   Johnson's racecars have been the most technologically prepared of any racecars the sport has ever seen - nowhere has Johnson ever competed even slightly behind the eight ball.    While Daytona and Talladega have routinely broken 50 lead changes year after year, Johnson has won but is usually mediocre or worse at those tracks; everywhere else lead changes are mostly nonexistent, and Johnson has invariably gotten the benefit that aeropush does all the work for him stopping others from passing him.   Nowhere has Johnson won because of superior driving technique.

Contrast this with the "bad" old days of the Petty-Earnhardt eras, especially Petty's era, when 40 lead changes a race was not the exception, the cars were physically far harder to drive (this gives Donovan McNabb's dismissal of Johnson as not being an athlete some credibility, because the fact of Danica Patrick's career testifies that the cars are too easy to drive), and Petty had to race against Hall Of Fame-caliber drivers (Pearson, the Allisons, Cale, Isaac, Baker, Lorenzen, Waltrip, Leeroy Yarbrough, Ned Jarrett, Joe Weatherly) year in and year out; even drivers like Bonnett, Parsons, and Dave Marcis showcased real toughness.   

Johnson has done nothing but race against mediocre or worse drivers.   It is impossible to name a driver he'd raced against who warrants any mention to racing Halls Of Fame.    Not Denny Hamlin, not the Busch Brothers, not Earnhardt Jr., not Keselowski, not the Burtons - no one.    The utter lack of lead changes in Johnson's era testifies to how much lower the caliber of competition the drivers he'd raced against offered.

Johnson was also from Day One tagged as the Factory Hack, the one chosen to become Chevrolet's designated champion.   Herb Fishel, who headed GM's racing efforts and was notoriously myopic in hording effort toward a designated champion team/driver - mostly Hendrick Motorsports, though Junior Johnson briefly held that status and the RCR team was for the most part well assisted, and even RCR had to form an engineering alliance with other Chevy teams in the 1990s (a move first pioneered by Pontiac teams all but bankrupted by Fishel at that time) - played a major role in the latter 1990s putting Johnson into stock cars (first in the ASA) and once Fishel made Johnson his protege there was never any chance Johnson would go anywhere but Hendrick Motorsports (it makes nonsense of the oft-repeated story that Jeff Gordon "discovered" Johnson).  

Johnson's run as dynasty has been a nadir for NASCAR and the sport's declining popularity testifies that people see through it and don't want anything to do with a driver who deserves no praise despite his enormous success.


Mark~ said...

This Blog has absolutely no merit, the facts are bias and backwards. Stupidest thing I've read in some time, you really need to study up on NASCAR and it's History.

Monkeesfan said...

To Mark - your criticism offers nothing in the way of factual response. The facts are plain to see and were known to be such then as well as now. If you wany to disagree with the points made, offer something factual in response.

If you want to claim, for instance, that Johnson was somehow discovered by Hendrick Motorsports as the oft-repeated fairy-tale implies, you would be well to check back to the latter 1990s when it was known in the racing media that Herb Fishel had a major hand in putting Johnson into stock cars; it was not by happenstance, nor was it by happenstance that he wound up with the team Fishel quite openly backed the most at the expense of other GM teams.