Jimmie Johnson: NASCAR Slayer

DJ BatchlerCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2010

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 21:  Jimmie Johnson drives the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 21, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Just a warning to possible Jimmie Johnson fans out there, this isn't an article of flattery.  He truly is a NASCAR slayer, but he isn't slaying his fellow competitors, he's slaying NASCAR itself.  Jimmie Johnson has said his dominance should be good for NASCAR just like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan's dominance were good for their respective sports. 

Just one problem.  Tiger and Michael were incredibly polarizing.  They were either incredibly popular or incredibly hated.  They had the pro wrestling personality.  Half thought they were the good guys, half thought they were the bad guys.

No singular athlete who has dominated his sport evokes more indifference than Jimmie Johnson.  NASCAR has been on a downward trend in it's ratings for several years, but the decreasing ratings have been more noticeable since Jimmie's era has become blatantly obvious.

Both the conspiracy theorist or the elitist should love Jimmie Johnson.  It's either all fixed so Jimmie can dominate, or he's simply the greatest driver to ever climb in the window of a car.  The first one isn't completely true, but the second one isn't even close to true.

There are very few honest opinions of Jimmie Johnson out there, but here is mine.  Jimmie is a very good driver.  He is talented enough to be in the field of 43 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, but he's not so uniquely talented that he alone has won four consecutive championships.

Jeff Gordon was once the most dominant driver.  That too, like this, will pass.  While Gordon was so dominant though his crew chief Ray Evernham, who some at that time called the greatest of all time was fined, suspended and reprimanded.  Chad Knaus, the 48 team's crew chief, has been fined, suspended and reprimanded.

The difference is that Chad Knaus is probably one of the top five crew chiefs of all time, no questions asked.  He and Jimmie Johnson didn't get along at first, but now they've won four championships and 50 races, safe to say that they get along now. 

While some will say neither will ever achieve this type of success without the other, and while that is likely it isn't a 100 percent lock.  It is for Jimmie, but not for Chad.  Jimmie is what Matt Kenseth was called at one point, a robot.  He is a driving machine who does what Chad tells him to, when he's told to do it.

He drives Chad Knaus' car to victory lane.  He doesn't race them, he drives them.  If you look you can find where a few experts have said that.  Jimmie drives fast around the race track, while his spotter and crew chief carry the bulk of the load.  One listen to Jimmie Johnson's scanner would raise your eyebrows.

If Jimmie is driving and a car is in front of him he's on the radio asking when the car in front of him is going to move out of his way.  He gets really uncomfortable when the car in front doesn't allow him by.  Not saying he can't race, he just doesn't like to.  If you look at all 50 wins something strikes you.  In less than 25 percent of them he's actually racing at the end.

While it borders on conspiracy theory, Sunday's race at Bristol looked oddly like other conclusions where Jimmie used a caution to catapult to victory.  There was debris, but it was simply a hose.  It could have been grabbed and the race back to green in at most four laps.  Instead it was an eight lap caution, with the green flag thrown with 10 to go.

All day everyone talked about how Johnson's car was "hooked up" on the short runs, or sprints.  20 laps at Bristol is little more than a sprint.  It was the perfect distance Jimmie had to go.  Another troubling trend repeated itself.  When Johnson starts second or third, with a car behind him as capable as his, this always happens.

Johnson blew around the lead car of Tony Stewart, Johnson had four fresh tires.  Kurt Busch, the class of the field all day, caught the now second place car of Stewart and couldn't pass him period, though Busch had four fresh tires. 

It is impossible to deny that NASCAR gives Jimmie Johnson special treatment, and it's getting harder and harder to not believe that NASCAR wants Jimmie Johnson to win.  The scary part is though, is trying to figure out why to either question.  People simply don't watch when Jimmie dominates.

Another example of NASCAR diverting their eyes when Jimmie does something.  All season long NASCAR has cracked down on speeding penalties.  Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol was no different.  Of course the 48 team didn't get a speeding penalty when he came in underneath the back end of another car.  Or when coming off pit road he went outside and in front of another car.

NASCAR is making a large number of changes to get the sport back to where it was, but they just won't get there.  As long as Jimmie Johnson dominates and is allowed to do certain things other drivers can't, people will continue to turn off NASCAR and turn on something, anything else.