NASCAR: The Jimmie Johnson Effect

Jerry Markland

Few issues in NASCAR are more polarizing than the success of five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Some fans love it, some don't, and some completely lose their minds when discussing the 60-time race winner and his No. 48 team.

By now, if you're a NASCAR fan, I'm sure you've seen the video of the little boy going completely ballistic over the conclusion of Sunday's AAA Texas 500. If not, here's a link, but you might want to keep your hand close to the volume knob.

If only it was just little boys coming up with all kind of conspiracy theories about Jimmie Johnson's victory. Social media has been ablaze with adults - longtime race fans - accusing Johnson, Rick Hendrick, Kasey Kahne, and former Hendrick driver Mark Martin of untoward actions in order to give Johnson another shot at Brad Keselowski.

Had any other driver benefited from those two late restarts, those folks would probably realize that Kahne's encounter with the wall was caused by a flat left rear tire triggered by contact with Jeff Gordon. Yes, Gordon is a third Hendrick driver, but he banged into Kahne after getting loosened up by Roush-Fenway driver Greg Biffle. Biffle, at last check, has nothing to gain from helping Johnson and Hendrick succeed.

Those same fans would also notice that Martin got the short end of a jam-up off the fourth turn. Carl Edwards bounced off Biffle, Martin bounced off Edwards, and the No. 55 Toyota went for a slide that ended with him sliding in front of traffic and banging into the outside wall.

Alas, it was the blue No. 48 Impala that went to victory lane, and some folks completely lost their minds like they do any time Johnson enjoys success.

Call it "The Jimmie Johnson Effect."

Those fans swear up and down, left and right, that NASCAR looks the other way when it comes to Johnson's team, allowing them to cheat their way to another championship. Yet, the No. 48 team has been as heavily scrutinized - and penalized - as any in recent memory as the sanctioning body tries to drill the fact that the Smokey Yunick days of innovation and rulebook exploitation are over into Chad Knaus's noggin.

Don't these people realize that nothing would benefit NASCAR more than to have Johnson not win the title again? Why on God's green earth would the sanctioning body assist not just Johnson and the 48 bunch but any driver and his team in continuing to stink up their show?

The answer is simple: they wouldn't.

A (comparatively) more realistic argument is that Johnson would be nothing - or at least not nearly as successful - without Knaus, a man who's most-fervent detractors even have to admit is a genius when it comes to making a race car go fast and stay fast.

That sentiment should have gone out the window in June 2010, when Johnson won the Prelude to the Dream at Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway. It takes a great, pure, seat-of-the-pants racer to succeed on a dirt track, and Johnson left absolutely no doubt about his ability to wheel a race car that night.

Folks don't have to like Johnson, they don't have to like the No. 48 team, and they don't have to like their success. They can hope the Lowe's Chevy blows an engine every single weekend, or at least that their favorite driver beats them (as I do with my particular driver). That's the beautiful thing about sports, you can root for or against whomever you choose for whatever reason you choose.

But they do have to at least be sensible. The wild, baseless conspiracy theories have worn old, and explaining away great performances (be it Johnson now, Gordon in the 1990s, Darrell Waltrip in the '80s, and so on) as falsehoods perpetuated at NASCAR's accord has long been out of style.

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