NASCAR’s 2009 Top 12

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And the winner is….Jimmy Johnson! Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog and the 2009 NASCAR Top 12. Finishing first in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, is Jimmy Johnson. This is his fourth Championship in a row! Something that has never been done before. Last year, he tied Cale Yarborough with three Championships in a row. This year he makes history.

Jimmy has won eight races during the Chase, including four straight in 2007.  The man simply knows how to race in the Chase. Jimmy and crew chief, Chad Knous know how to get it done in those last ten races. And Jimmy is considered the favorite going into the Chase. He has 43 career wins before the chase, six chase appearances, and finished first 2006-2008.

Johnson’s worse track is Talladega, finishing there 30th or worse five times. This year he drove near the rear of the field through most of the race and avoided trouble. In the end, he stayed out of trouble and managed an eighth place finish. Not really racing, you say? Maybe not, but the strategy worked.

Johnson had three wins in the regular season, seeding him in third in the Chase. He won for the second time this year at Dover International Speedway. This year Jimmy won four times in the chase, at Dover, Auto Club Speedway in California (his home track), Lowe’s Motor Speedway (his sponsor), and Phoenix International Raceway. One must win races in the Chase to win the Championship, and Jimmy sure did that.

In Texas, however, Johnson crashed out on lap three. Sam Hornish, Jr. spun him around and he hit the outside wall and the inside wall. The car was mangled. But Johnson never gave up. He stayed in the car while all of Hendrick Motor Sports rallied to fix his car enough to get back on the track. Having the crash so soon in the race, should have left him finishing in 43rd, but Johnson managed a 38th place finish. That kept him in the lead in the points.

After that miserable race in Texas, Johnson rallied to win in Phoenix. Going into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Mark Martin was his only challenger for the Sprint Cup Title. Johnson needed to finish 26th or better. After what happened in Texas, he couldn’t just drive around. Johnson has never won at Homestead-Miami. Maybe because he has never had to!

Let’s look at Johnson’s numbers in the Chase. He had nine top tens, seven top fives and four wins. Ten races, and he only got into trouble once! They say you need more than just good driving skills to win a Championship, you also need luck. And Johnson certainly had luck on his side this year and the previous three years. If anyone wants to knock him out of another Title, they will have to out-perform him. Something that is not easily done.

I’m going out on a limb here and giving my opinion. If the points system that is in place now continues, with the same ten races on the same ten tracks  determining the Title, Jimmy Johnson will win his seven Championships (like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt) all in a row.

This leaves me to wonder if the Chase is the best way to determine the Championship. If the points system had not changed in 2004, Jimmy would not have four Championships, let alone four in a row. The Chase came into play when Matt Kenseth won the Championship in 2003 having only one win. NASCAR wanted a play-off system instead of accumulated points through 36 races. But in doing so, Kurt Busch won the first Chase, after starting it in ninth place. Tony Stewart proved he was good at the last ten tracks, and won in 2005. And then along came Jimmy!

In my opinion, the points should go back to the way it was. The Chase was supposed to create excitement in the last ten races. But I have to say, I liked it better when drivers were racing to get in and stay in the top ten in points. With the Chase, only 12 drivers are even mentioned. Is this good for the fans? Many fans will not watch if their driver will not be mentioned. And Sponsors are reluctant to sponsor cars not in the top 12. If there was no Chase, ALL the fans would be watching, instead of just the fans of the top 12. And ALL sponsors would be mentioned, not just the chosen 12. Maybe a better way would be to give more points (say 25) for a win, instead of 10 points in the Chase.

Just my opinion, and probably another NASCAR blog topic. I like Jimmy Johnson. I think he is a great driver who knows how to race. But do we really have to crown him Champion every year?  I think not. But, hey, I’m just a NASCAR fan.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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