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Woody: Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 15 2010

Jimmie Johnson shows zero sign of fading fortune as he shoots for his fifth straight Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

We’ve been saying it for the past three years:

Surely Jimmie Johnson can’t win ANOTHER championship.

And for the past three years we’ve been wrong.

I didn’t say it at the start of this season – three strikeouts is enough to button most any sportswriter’s mouth – but deep down I admit I thought it: Surely Jimmie can’t win ANOTHER championship.

Not in this day and time when there’s more mega-bucks teams in NASCAR than at any time in the sport’s history. Not with all the talented drivers. Not with all the rules-shuffling. Not with all the parity.

Surely not again.

But as unbelievable as it seems, Johnson’s drive for five is very much alive.

He snared the points lead a couple of weeks ago and he’s like a bulldog on wheels – once he clamps down he won’t let go.

After just seven races Johnson holds a 36-point lead over Matt Kenseth. For a driver like Jimmie, 36 points might as well be 36,000 … he’s not one for squandering leads.

That’s the frustrating thing – from the opposition standpoint: Johnson doesn’t beat himself. He and his team are virtually bullet-proof. Once they get a lead they don’t give it back. He never stubs his toe.

All I can say is, thank heaven and Brian France for the Chase. Even if Johnson turns the 26-race regular season into a blowout, at least the field will be re-set for the final 10 race showdown. That’s not much down-the-road drama but it beats nothing, which is what we’d have under the old system.

I’ve heard the argument that a dynasty is good for any sport; it presents a target for everybody else to shoot for, a pedestal to be toppled. Well, maybe … except that nobody seems to come close to toppling Jimmie’s. It would be nice to see him at least break a sweat.

Occasionally there’s an exciting blip, like Ryan Newman’s last-gasp victory last Saturday night at Phoenix. But even when Jimmie loses he still wins – he finished third and padded his points.

With three wins in the first seven races it’s considered an upset when Johnson doesn’t win. Again, there could be a debate about how much interest that inspires – do fans tune in to pull for their favorite driver or pull against Johnson?

And I also realize that the sport has had dominant drivers in the past, teams that got on a roll and seemed virtually invincible.

But I don’t recall any performance in NASCAR’s modern history equal to what we’re seeing today with Jimmie’s magic carpet ride.

History is being made and, like watching Babe swat homers, I suppose we should sit back and appreciate the spectacle. A comet like Jimmie Johnson doesn’t streak across the racing galaxy very often.

Maybe there’ll be some exciting battles for second.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 15 2010
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