The Future Will Push The Past Aside Today
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Jimmie Johnson insisted Thursday that he just has this feeling that somehow, some way, he will win his sixth Sprint Cup championship on Sunday. Can’t explain it, he said.
Over in a publishing plant in Olathe, Kan., NASCAR guys this week were saying the same thing: Johnson picks up where he left off in 2010.
The guess here is that thousands and perhaps millions of NASCAR guys and women feel the same way. They think Johnson will slide out of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy and into early evening air at Homestead-Miami Speedway as your 2012 Cup champion.
It’s not just blind faith driving Johnson and many Cup fans this weekend. The guy and his team have pulled off some pretty incredible stuff over the last decade. They’ve come back from slow cars early in races, scary crashes late in races and points deficits late in seasons.
They’ve picked the pockets of the best in the business and now many are expecting more of the same today at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They are dead sure that Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the combined efforts of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports will overcome the 20-point deficit they face and win ugly silver trophy No. 6.
The believers are just taking it for granted that relatively young points-leader Brad Keselowski will get psyched out or taken out or suffer some other kind of outage and finish 20 places behind Johnson. Or that relatively young crew chief Paul Wolfe or won of his over-the-wall guys will gag on the moment.
The believers think the gods of all things mechanical will place their finger of doom on the Blue Deuce – if for no other reason, the beer sponsoring the car tastes like crap.
The believers are convinced that late this afternoon, Johnson, his wife and his daughter will be brushing confetti off their clothing in Victory Lane at Homestead.
All this is kind of odd, you know, because in the past – especially during the high-magic years when Johnson won five championships in a row – many race fans had that attitude that “this is they year the 48’s luck runs out”.
But the thought here has become: Keselowski is a different kind of cat. That he is a once-in-a-generation type of guy. That he’s either too focused or naively oblivious to all that is going on around him.
He’s already drove through a gusher of No. 48 mojo and emerged on the other side warm and dry and countering Johnson’s assaults on his skull with counter assaults of his own.
Like this weekend, after Johnson went out of his way to remind the Penske Racing Blue Deuce folks about just how much can go wrong in a sport that features physical, mental and mechanical stress.
Keselowski responded with reminders of his own. With a loose collar, he traded shots with Johnson and answered some really, really, really lame questions from the media with really, really, really sharp barbs.
And then he went pop culture when asked his plan for the all-deciding race.
“One of my favorite movies in the whole wide world is this documentary on Ayrton Senna,” Keselowski said, “and there’s this really powerful scene in that movie that sticks with me when I think about this weekend. I think about this scene in the movie when they talked about him at Monaco, which was his – just his phenomenal track that he was so strong at and how he had this huge lead over his teammate at the time, obviously had an identical car, which showcased what kind of talent Ayrton had, and they were coming down to the closing laps of the race, and they told him to slow down, you have a huge lead, don’t worry, just slow down, just – and he wrecked.
“And I think of that as I approach this weekend. I’m going to go out there and play my game, race my way. That’s got us to this point, and if we do that, we’ll be fine, and I think that’s our approach.”
The view here is that Keselowski will not run into trouble, and that Johnson will run head-on into Sprint Cup’s future today and that future will be driving a car with a beer bottle on the side.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment