Friday, October 14, 2011
Win Or Lose, Johnson Defines 2011 Chase
Here’s what we know for sure.
Johnson’s bid for an unprecedented sixth consecutive Sprint Cup Series title will make history, one way or another. He and his Lowe’s Chevrolet team will either throw off their “Five Time” moniker with yet another triumphant Chase performance, or they’ll see their championship string end at the hands of a ferociously hungry, equally deserving race team.
Some are anxious for Option Two to occur. In truth, there is a significant portion of NASCAR Nation that is not anxious to see the same movie; over and over again. No less than CNBC -– generally not a hotbed of NASCAR debate and discussion -– announced to the world this week that “Jimmie Johnson going for six straight titles is bad for NASCAR.”
With all due respect to the network and its panel of NASCAR experts, that's decidedly untrue. In fact, the thirst for a new champion – ANY new champion – has provided a much-needed boost in television ratings for this year’s Chase, as fans flock to their televisions to watch Johnson and his team struggle uncharacteristically in the early races of the 2011 postseason.
It will be interesting to see if those numbers dip now that Johnson is solidly back in play.
While the debate rages over whether NASCAR will benefit from Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick or Brad Keselowski winning the 2011 Sprint Cup Series championship, there is no question that Edwards, Harvick and Keselowski benefit greatly from the ability to take Johnson’s full measure in this year’s Chase. Once seemingly in a class of their own, Johnson and his #48 team have seen their advantage over the rest of the NASCAR garage narrowed this season. That’s not a bad thing, all things considered.
“Everybody wants to be that guy who ends the streak,” said Denny Hamlin a year ago, when he was the leading candidate to unseat NASCAR’s reigning monarch. That’s still true today, even though Hamlin will clearly not be the man to do it.
Win or lose, the 2011 championship passes directly through Jimmie Johnson. And that’s good thing.