Some may call this a case of “sympathy for the devil” (with all apologies to the Rolling Stones), but it seems here that Jimmie Johnson is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. One thing’s for sure, the five time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has little interest in winning in the court of public opinion, as evidenced by his late race maneuvers at Daytona International Speedway at the Coke Zero 400.
Let’s face it fans, and let’s try to be intellectually honest about it: if my driver blocks, he’s defending his position. If your driver blocks, he’s being a blockhead. If your driver mouths off at and to the media, he’s a whiny jerk. If my driver does the same, he’s calling it like he sees it. If my driver lays a bumper on another, he’s fighting for the win. If your driver does it, he’s a dirty driver.
Jimmie Johnson is the Tiger Woods of NASCAR. He piles up wins much like the Miami Heat, much like the NBA fan base, there’s a lot of fans who don’t like it. It’s any number of things that may bring this about, and just as it may seem to many that the loyalty shown to Dale Earnhardt Jr. almost defies logic, you can’t get around this- fans are entitled to like whomever they like, and similarly, fans are entitled to dislike whomever they want to dislike, regardless of who he is and what he does.
Given that, regardless of whether or not he did the wrong thing, Jimmie Johnson isn’t going to win regarding his move at Daytona Saturday. To hear him tell it, he’d been shifting from line to line to hold off challengers all race long, determining this time to get out front and stay out front for the duration of the race- a reverse Tony Stewart strategy if you will. I the instance in question, Johnson changed lanes from running in front of teammate Kasey Kahne, to moving in front of Marcos Ambrose. The Aussie makes his move, Johnson blocks, Ambrose tries to avoid getting hit, gets forced into Kahne, sending the ‘5’ car sailing into the inside wall. Ouch!
Kasey Kahne was understandably upset. Whether or not he had a legitimate shot at beating Johnson is something we’ll never know. What we know is that he’s had good cars week after week, and stuff like this derails his day. You know what’s interesting though? The one person I don’t hear pitching a fit in all of this is Kasey Kahne. Do you honestly think being Johnson’s teammate keeps him from speaking his mind on the matter? Kahne’s a big boy, he’s the driver who got hosed, and if you really think he would suddenly become persona non grata for calling out Johnson, then you have a different view than me about things operate at Hendrick Motorsports.
Here’s the deal: all you people who said Carl Edwards had no business whining about Greg Biffle a few weeks back, ought to be applying the same principle here. Yes, I know Johnson whines like a prune fed cat when things don’t go his way, but this is irrelevant to this discussion. Jimmie Johnson’s job is to win races. He really doesn’t owe Kasey Kahne anything. It may not be how I’d do things if I were driving the ‘48’ but guess what, I’m not driving the ‘48,’ and for Rick Hendrick’s sake, it’s a good thing I’m not.
Admit it, critics, if YOUR driver did it, you would have looked the other way. That’s o.k. While Jimmie Johnson can’t win in the court of public opinion, he has no trouble winning on the track.
I’m pretty sure Johnson will live with it. He would rather lead the points than lead in merchandising sales.