Jimmie Johnson won his fifth straight championship on Sunday. Just like I wrote last week, his main competition, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick, made mistakes and had back luck back in the pack. In the meantime, Johnson stayed up front and out of trouble. Qualifying was the key.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]On Friday, Hamlin, at that time leading by 15 points going into the race, tried teammate Kyle Busch’s qualifying setup. The result was a 37th place starting position. Harvick started 28th, but unlike Hamlin, was able to work his way to the front, but that happened late in the race and wasn’t enough to overtake Johnson and Hamlin.
The question that now will be asked over and over is will anyone else be able to take the championship again. Although Hamlin and Harvick made it close, there was never any doubt in this writer’s mind that Johnson would come out on top from the first race of the season. Rick Hendrick has assembled a crew that has become a dynasty. It’s helped that the tracks chosen for the final ten-race chase are well suited for Johnson’s driving style, but one cannot deny that Johnson has been good almost everywhere. Those with a “glass half full” disposition continue to cry that the other teams just have to get better and beat him is a solution that is not holding water. All the resources of Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motorsports, Chrysler, and other Chevrolet teams had not been enough. Some of the greatest minds in this sport have tried and failed. The No. 48 team will have to make a mistake for anyone else to have a chance, and that’s something that is not likely.
In the seven years that NASCAR has used this Chase format, Johnson has won five times (only Kurt Busch with Roush-Fenway Racing and Tony Stewart with Joe Gibbs Racing have won the championship, and that was in the first two years). Many point to the introduction of the Car of Tomorrow as a leading factor. The much maligned spec car was introduced in 2007 and used full time in 2008. Johnson has won every championship since its introduction. Compounding that was a ban on testing instituted by NASCAR in 2009 which saw the performance of some teams suffer. Johnson’s team and the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports organization never missed a beat during that time, leaving the rest of the field behind. It wasn’t until this season that Roush-Fenway and Richard Childress Racing became competitive again. Could that have been a reason the championship was so close?
Regardless, the accomplishments of the Hendrick Motorsports racing team and Jimmie Johnson cannot be ignored. Congratulations to all involved. But for the good of the sport, let’s hope it’s someone else next year, but if not, you have to admire what has been done by that organization. To the victor go the spoils and that’s only fair.