Jimmie Johnson is three races away from doing what only one other driver has done in the history of NASCAR; win three consecutive Cup Series championships.
The success enjoyed by Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports/Lowes Home Improvement team should be the toast of NASCAR Nation, but instead, the sport is besieged by calls for a revamped points system designed to halt the team’s dominance.
Only in NASCAR does excellence breed this kind of contempt.
Baseball’s New York Yankees have won the World Series 26 times, including a run of eight championships in 12 years between 1947 and 1958. Even at the height of Yankee dominance, nobody suggested changing the rules of baseball to allow other teams to compete.
Beginning in 1965, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup nine times in 14 seasons. Nobody advocated changing the National Hockey League Playoffs.
From 1982 to 1997 the NFC won the Super Bowl 15 times in 16 years. Despite this lopsided margin, nobody seemed interested in overhauling the NFL playoff system.
UCLA once won 10 NCAA men’s basketball championships in 12 years. Nobody tried to outlaw coach John Wooden, or change the format of the NCAA tournament.
The Chicago Bulls won six NBA titles between 1990 and 1998. There were no calls to ban Michael Jordan from the hardwood, or change the playoff system.
Pete Sampras won 7 Wimbledon titles between 1993 and 2000. Nobody changed the rules of the tennis, or the format of the legendary tournament.
Muhammad Ali won 56 times in 61 professional fights. Not one writer suggested that “The Greatest” fight with one hand tied behind his back.
And yet, our sport seems determined to continually revamp its rules in an effort to prevent any one team from succeeding for any length of time. In 2003, Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Cup championship while winning only one race. NASCAR fans – and many members of the media -- clamored for a new system that put more emphasis on winning races, and less on Kensethian consistency.
The next season, they got their wish.
Now, just five years later, Jimmie Johnson is on track for his third consecutive Sprint Cup title, winning 21 races (to date) in that three-year span. Instead of saluting that amazing run of excellence, NASCAR fans -- and many of those same media members -- are clamoring for yet another revision to the championship system; one that puts less emphasis on winning, and once again rewards consistency.
When Cale Yarborough authored his three-peat in 1976-77-78, he won 28 times and posted 56 Top-5 finishes in 90 starts. In the last three seasons, Johnson has won 21 races and posted 47 Top-5 finished in 108 starts; less formidable numbers than those posted by Yarborough. If Cale’s dominance did not warrant a major overhaul of the sport, why does Johnson’s?
The simple answer is that it doesn’t.
Leave the system alone.