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Woody: Another Helping Of The Vanilla, Please

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 23 2009
Jimmie Johnson has put things that are right about NASCAR on display in recent weeks.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jimmie Johnson has put things that are right about NASCAR on display in recent weeks. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

In terms of driver images, in recent weeks we’ve seen the worst and the best.

The worst: Kyle Busch dashing to bits his classic trophy guitar after a victory at Nashville Superspeedway.

The best: Jimmie Johnson seeking out Kurt Bush after last Sunday’s race at Sonoma to offer an apologic handshake for an accidental spinout.

Johnson, chasing a record fourth consecutive Cup championship, is a terrific representative for his sport. He races hard and – when necessary – ruthlessly – but when it’s over it’s over.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Give no quarter on the track, try to beat the daylights out of the opposition, then shake hands after its over.

Some critics claim that Johnson is too vanilla, that he lacks dash and pizzazz. All I can say is that most other pro sports would be delighted to have a bit less pizzazz in some of their star athletes.

Here in Nashville we had about all the pizzazz we could stand from Pacman Jones before he was finally packed off to Dallas – where he promptly over-pizzazzed there too.

My only complaint with Johnson this season was the Charity Lap he gave teammate Mark Martin a few weeks ago. Jimmie was leading when he deliberately slowed, let Mark pass and lead a lap for the five bonus points, then reassumed the lead and went on to win.

That’s taking the Nice Guy thing too far. What if Johnson should be eliminated from the championship Chase by Martin by the five points he gave away? Or what if Martin beat out another driver for the 12th and final spot by five points or less?

Giving away free passes – and championship points – taints the sport’s integrity.

And speaking of integrity, it was troublesome when Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, was repeatedly caught cheating. Cheating’s bad enough anytime, but it’s particularly shameful when a team that rich and talented tries to steal an even bigger edge over the out-matched competition.

It wasn’t Johnson who did the cheating, but he benefited from it. It shamed everyone on the team – from owner Rick Hendrick on down to the guy who sweeps the shop floor.

Aside from those past incidents, Johnson has been on a dream ride. After 16 races this season he has two wins and is a solid third in the standings. With 10 races to go to set the 12-car championship field he’s a virtual cinch to make the playoffs.

And once he’s in, don’t bet against him.

I thought no driver could ever win three straight titles given the parity of the sport nowadays. I was wrong. But wining four? The odds against it are astronomical.

Yet here’s Jimmie, primed and poised and a threat to win every time he rolls onto the track.

Johnson has a chance to make history this fall, and if he comes up short there’s one thing we can count on: he’ll lose with class.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 23 2009
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • Linda says:

    Jimmie was asked by Martin to let him lead a lap. Guess he felt obligated. I’ve yet to see any of the teammates do anything for Jimmie.

  • pb says:

    I don’t see any problem with Jimmie letting Mark lead a lap and get the 5 bonus points. In other sports, helping someone on your team is called teamwork. While I see your point, somewhat, about what should happen if Mark were to knock Jimmie out of the Chase by 5 points, we both know good and well that it won’t come to that. You simply can’t talk about Jimmie not making the Chase and then raise the prospect of him winning 4 titles in a row.

  • LARRY WOODY says:

    Lacey, Jimmie giving Mark five points will be “worth mentioning” if Mark should knock him out of the Chase by four points.
    And it will be “worth mentioning” if Mark should beat some other driver out of the 12th spot by four points.
    Let’s call it what other sports call it: point fixing.

  • Lacey says:

    I thought you were headed for a good article there, and then… disapointment. Jimmie letting Mark pass wasn’t worth a mention. The Roush camp was absolutely insufferable about this a few years ago, but Jimmie? Once? WHO CARES. Then bring out some digs on the crew chief! Thats always popular! Nevermind that there hasn’t been a peep from the officials for 2 full years. Nevermind that most of the infractions occured when everyone had parts on the table. Nevermind that Knaus actually read the rule-book and all his infractions were for disagreements about what was possible and what was not(you can’t say the same about Berrier with his rag in the gas can, Waltrip with his altered fuel, or stollen parts or Gibbs with their magnets). You go ahead and forget all of that and just harp on whatever rediculous old news you want.