Woody: Jimmie Stinking Up The Show
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Back in the late 1960’s a brash, talent-oozing young leadfoot from Ownesboro, Ky., swaggered into Nashville and proceeded to turn Nashville Speedway’s Victory Circle into his own private parking space.
His name was Darrell Waltrip and he drove as fast as he talked. He was darn near unbeatable.
Darrell wasn’t just winning most of the races, he was turning them into boring blowouts.
Finally crusty old Speedway promoter Bill Donoho called DW in for a sit-down.
“Son,” growled Donoho, “you’re stinking up my show!”
Darrell just shrugged a so-what shrug and kept on scooting.
Today NASCAR faces a similar problem. Jimmie Johnson is stinking up the show. He is racking up win after win – two in three races already this season – and making it look easy.
Donoho’s problem of TMD (Too Much Darrell) was finally solved when Waltrip graduated up to NASCAR’s Grand National big leagues. NASCAR’s Jimmie problem can’t be solved so easily – Johnson’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Heck, at 35 he’s just getting started.
Johnson has four consecutive Sprint Cup championships and is on track for five. The record seven-total titles notched by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt – once considered untouchable – is suddenly well within Johnson’s reach.
After starting the season in a hole with a 35th-place finish at Daytona, Johnson reeled off wins at California and Las Vegas. Going into Atlanta this weekend he is up to 5th in the standings – a 30-spot jump in two races.
If he gets a big lead we can put out the campfire and call in the hounds. This hunt will be over early. By July we pundits will be analyzing the battle for second. And once the Chase for the Championship starts don’t bet against Johnson and his bullet-proof team; NASCAR might as well go ahead and engrave the trophy.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This is not a criticism of Johnson. He’s just doing his job, blowing the doors off the competition week after week.
It’s not his fault that nobody can keep up with him. But that doesn’t change the fact that he – like Waltrip four decades ago – is stinking up the show.
NASCAR knows this is a critical season in terms of reviving sagging TV ratings and attendance. It needs some excitement, some drama, some old-fashioned driver duels. It needs a shakeup and a wakeup.
It needs some new faces out front, some fresh personalities in Victory Circle. More (yawn) wins by Johnson, more virtually uncontested marches to more championships, won’t cure what ails NASCAR.
For the sake of the sport it’s too bad that Jimmie’s so good. He and his team are so dominant its scary – giving NASCAR good reason to be nervous.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments