Monday, November 23, 2009

4th Championship In A Row - The Best Ever?

So in breaking with tradition and I suppose superstition I bit the bullet and decided to watch the NASCAR race from Homestead Miami Speedway yesterday. Ordinarily when there is as much at stake and I was as emotionally invested as I was in something happening that I would tend not to watch. Sometimes it comes down to a case of what I don’t know won’t hurt me, especially in an event where something so small as a loose wire could de-rail a performance of historic proportions. I was rewarded with my decision when Jimmie Johnson made his successful run for a unprecedented and record 4th consecutive NASCAR CUP Championship. Other drivers may have more (Earnhardt and Petty with 7), but one has to argue that the quality of the fields are not comparable. The drivers that have come before and paved the pay are legends but even at his young age Jimmie has to be put into the same level as those other drivers if not even above.

Jimmie Johnson made history on Sunday with a 5th place finish at Miami which clinched the title and solidified him and his team as one of the best ever. No one in the sport has won 4 in a row, only 1 other had won 3 and a half dozen at best has ever won back to back. Even with that Jimmie’s should be viewed even more impressive as he is doing it in a time where the quality of the other drivers week in and week out are far better and much more even. In addition to that, the equipment that is being used is all so regulated by NASCAR to be similar and universal to ensure parody in the sport. That is what separates the 48 Lowes Impala SS from others over the course of history. There is such little wiggle room to make adjustments under the rules that gaining any advantage is more difficult then any other time in the sport. Granted the 48 team in the past has been known to bend the rules a bit or toe the line as close as possible but that is what any championship team has to do...sprint to the wall but manage to stop right before you crash into it.

What made this last win even better is that he WON this championship, he didn’t just coast and play it conservative and raced the race not raced to protect a lead in a prevent defence (Similar to how Matt Kenseth did the year he won the championship). With 3 races left in the season an early crash saw him land a mid 30th place finish, cutting greatly into his lead. After that terrible run he managed to re-focus and come back in the last 2 races and win one and got a top 5 in the next. There was no let up just business as usual...get in the car and race to win, just like a true champion. Not only was it the 4th for Johnson but Hendrick Motorsports went 1-2-3 atop of the Cup standings (Johnson - Mark Martin- Jeff Gordon...the first time that has ever happened).

This victory is one of the greatest feats in sports in some time and sadly is not getting the recognition that it deserves. For how monumental a 4-peat is the appreciation in the media just doesn’t seem to be what it should be. This is as great or greater then winning all 4 Golf or Tennis Majors in one year yet the hype just isn’t there. It is too bad that If it was Tiger or Federer that did the equivalent in their respective sports it would be everywhere on TV, in the papers, on the Internet, Twitter’d, Facebooked the whole 9 yards. On it was 3rd behind 2 featured results from the CFL..that is just mind boggling and on Sportsnet it wasn’t even a foot note. Foxsports, ESPN mentioned it and SI at least had it one of the leads. The only redeeming factor is that there is the likelihood that SI will name him Sportsman of the Year. They almost have no choice, If Favre could take it last year there is little or no excuse not to have Jimmie take it this year. That is the one problem with the way NASCAR does it and there is really no way to avoid it. You can’t have a big must see one day production like a Super Bowl or a best of 7 Playoff Series when points are the measuring stick (Denny Hamlin actually won the race yesterday but that is overshadowed by the coronation of a champion...the Must See TV Pizzazz just can’t be done with this format).

Regardless of any of the outside factors Jimmie has done something that has not and may not ever be done again and it was and is a pleasure to be witnessing it while it is going on.
Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the entire Hendrick 48 Lowes Team

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