Speaking for myself, it does get a little old watching one guy stink up the show. I wonder how old schoolers dealt with Petty’s dominance back in the day. A lot it ,too, is guilt by association. I have little doubt that racing for Rick Hendrick is a part of it. I’m sure there is also the association with Jeff Gordon. For others, it’s having Chad Knaus (thought to be a prolific cheater) for a crew chief.
Most of all, I think it’s that Johnson is kind of an “anti- Dale”, if you will. Or at least that’s the common perception. His Cup career went from zero to sixty in a New York minute. He says all the right things. Johnson may grouse about another’s driving (even Gordon’s) once in a while, but you never hear about him getting called to the hauler.
Fans are entitled to their opinions of him, but I’ll say this about Jimmie Johnson: no one competes harder. The most recent example is last Sunday. He didn’t gain a ton by going back out after that famous lap three crash, but he did it anyway. There’s always that possibility Johnson will need that handful of points come Homestead.
When have you ever seen this guy points race? From this point of view, I’d say only at Homestead. There IS that possibility he won’t have the luxury this year. That aside, my mind flashes to racing from the back at Pocono, to trying like the dickens to run Mark Martin down at Phoenix before finally crying uncle and saying, “I’ve got nothing for him.”
Now, keep in mind that, as a fan, this is the one Hendrick driver I DON’T root for. It’s nothing personal, I’m just one who tends to root for the underdog, which Johnson most certainly is not.
By the same token, I’m betting that if he showed up at my doorstep with the goods for a backyard barbecue, I’d find him to be pleasant company. An oft-forgotten aspect of his story is he does have an “everyman” back story. Have you seen his parents on TV? We’re talking about people who look quite a bit like fans I meet at the local dirt track- just plain old good folks.
I don’t think he is the way he is because Jimmie Johnson is “politically correct”, I think the guy is generally polite and well-spoken because that’s just the way he is. Until sufficient evidence of otherwise is presented, that’s my read of the three-time champion.
The man may not top my list of drivers to root for, but I’ve grown to respect him. To be quite honest, I wished some of “my drivers” were as focused as Johnson and Knaus. They’re relentless.
They fight for every win and every point they can get. It’s like former Jets and Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said (I’m sure you’ve seen the Coors Lite commercial”)
“You play. To win. The game.”
PHOTO CREDITS- Chad Knaus with “48” car by Rusty Jarrett/ Getty Images for NASCAR. The “48” down pit road at TMS by Tom Pennington/ Getty Images for NASCAR.