It would appear that winning five Sprint Cup Championships isn't enough to earn a driver the benefit of the doubt. NASCAR conspiracy theorists have come up with the idea that Jimmie Johnson intentionally wrecked the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet while celebrating in an effort to hide some form of cheating. For the record, Johnson successfully passed the post-race inspection.
In an article written by Bob Pockrass of Sportingnews.com, an earlier incident with Johnson is said to be the catalyst of fans claims. The article refers an incident in 2010 in which:
Audio of Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus telling Johnson to make sure the back of his car has hit something either during the race or afterward in order to make sure they pass inspection. Knaus later said that because tolerances were so tight and there is so much bump drafting going on, he just wanted to make sure there was a mark on the car to show it had contact with something in case NASCAR officials questioned anything after the race.
With that in mind, the current theory is that Johnson's ill advised celebration was actually a pre-meditated measure to cover something up.
When asked if he knew what people were saying, Johnson responded:
"I can only imagine."
Johnson went on to explain his celebration in a bit more detail.
"[the celebration] just didn't go as planned."
“I just wanted to get a cool picture down on the Daytona emblem (in the grass),” Johnson said. “That’s every driver’s goal—to get on the emblem and do a burnout.
“I turned down and pulled it into second gear and thought I had the right angle to spin off into the grass. As I turned in, I guess the car rolling over (into the grass) allowed the right front to dig in. I knew instantly once it grabbed the dirt, I had a real problem.”
Knaus has been in trouble in the past for some issues, but this is all a bit much. If you watched the race, than you know that Johnson didn't have a dominate car. He was strong at the end, but a handful of other cars looked good that day as well. More importantly, if you have any sense at all, you would realize this claim is ridiculous.
If Johnson goes on to win a few more races and he tears up his car celebrating each time, then this might be a valid thing. If at some point this season Johnson wins a race and fails a post-race inspection, this might be a valid thing.
The man did not win five consecutive championships by cheating. I am willing to bet that every team toes the line each week to get a competitive edge. With that being said, Johnson's team has come too close to the line in times past. Even with that in mind, this allegation still seems to far-fetched for me. If a team is going to cheat, are they really going to use the plan of destroying the evidence by wrecking the car?
There are still 35 races left for all of you non-Johnson fans. How about we look forward to this Sunday and leave the sour grapes at home.