There is no doubt that Jimmie Johnson is the dominant driver of this generation. However; Johnson isn’t much different from dominant drivers of past generations in one aspect. Dale Earnhardt was 0-19 Daytona 500 before his victory in 1998, and Jeff Gordon was 0-17 at the Texas Motor Speedway before holding off a late charge from Johnson for the win in 2009. Johnson comes into this weekend 0-23 at the Michigan International Speedway and some have questioned whether Johnson will ever win in the Irish Hills. Don’t be surprised if the 48 can prove all the critics wrong once again.
Why am I so adamant that Johnson could indeed win this race? Look at history. Last season, Johnson had a DNF at every restrictor plate track. And his history at the Daytona 500 before his second victory in February was marred by poor results. Johnson won the 2006 Daytona 500, but his best finish since leading up to 2013 was a 27th. Not only did Johnson win the 500 in February, but he also became the first person since Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep Daytona. Johnson didn’t necessarily have a great history at the Brickyard 400 either.
Johnson’s best finish at the Brickyard before 2006 was 9th during his rookie season. Johnson either struggled, or he found himself behind the wall with engine-related problems, or a wrecked race car. What do the record books say now? The rest is history. Will Michigan be the next track to fall under Johnson’s wing? It might be only a matter of days until we finally see him break through for the win. I know that many fans will either disagree with me, or they would be angry that I’m mentioning Johnson in this article, but his history of overcoming adversity simply cannot be ignored.
The Roush Fenway cars will be difficult to beat though. Greg Biffle has won the last two events here at the Michigan International Speedway and has 4 in the bag, but it is possible that we can always have a surprise. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is piloting the #17 car that visited victory lane twice here with Matt Kenseth behind the wheel. Can Stenhouse get his first career win? Stenhouse is my dark horse for Sunday and this will be a huge opportunity to prove that he can compete against the big boys in cup. A win could boost Stenhouse’s Chase hopes, but I think he would have to rely on Martin Truex Jr., or Ryan Newman having multiple bad races for that to occur.
With that being said, I had the pleasure of having up-and coming NASCAR driver, C.J. Faison on my radio program earlier. What a great kid. I noticed something about Faison that I purposefully tried to get out of him. This kid has confidence. He reminds me of Brad Keselowski starting to make progress in the Nationwide Series. No one is going to derail this kid from achieving what he wants to achieve. In his two Camping World Truck Series starts, his best finish is a 19th. When I asked him how he would rate his truck performances thus far from 1/10 he said, “I would give myself a 10. I did my best to get the best finish I could.” That’s a real confident young man right there and a future champion in the sport. I also was really impressed that despite the fact that he has run his two races for two different car owners, Faison kept the same crew chief in Matt McFarland. Faison said, “It’s all about team chemistry. That is what makes a great team. Matt and I talk every couple of days during the week about moving up successfully together through the rankings and I’m very excited to see what we can do together.”
We also touched on the state of the sport and Faison agreed that the cost of operating in NASCAR is too expensive and is preventing grassroots drivers from “coming into the sport” and that tickets need to be lowered so that fans can actually attend. However; Faison respects NASCAR’s chase system despite its critics and stated, “It is a championship to me because that’s the system and you still have to race.” His comments come after Former President and General Manager of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Humpy Wheeler stated that NASCAR hurt its image by trying to make the sport too fancy and ultimately hurting attendance.