- Last Updated on Monday, 26 November 2012 08:21
- Published on Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:58
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It’s starting to sound as if this Jimmie Johnson stuff is wearing a bit thin — not only with the fans, but also with some of his rivals in the Sprint Cup Series.
That’s not to say there’s a lack of respect or appreciation for the unbelievable run by Johnson, who has won a record four consecutive championships and has won three of this season’s first five races. But there clearly seems to be an undercurrent of impatience regarding the possible ending of Johnson’s dominance.
Several weeks ago, current series points leader Kevin Harvick, after finishing second to Johnson, declared that his car was capable of running with the 48 team. Harvick added he was well aware of the impending challenge in his comments.
Then, the weekend before last at Bristol, third place finisher Kurt Busch lamented the familiar sight of Johnson heading to Victory Lane and mentioned that he thought good old-fashioned luck was aiding the champion’s cause. Like the four-time champion has done it with luck.
“I would rather lose to any of the other 41 cars out there than the 48 car,” Busch said. “We saw the 48 was going to be the car to beat. They are every week. It’s up to rest of us to knock him off the top, so it’s rough.
“You know, they’ve won three times this year. Not that we need or deserve to win, it’s just that they are winning every chance they’re given. We just need to position ourselves more to get those wins.”
Of course there’s the old adage that you make your own luck. The 48 team is certainly capable of that. Especially at Martinsville. Johnson has won six of the last 11 races at the historic half-mile Virginia track. That’s not exactly news to the rest of the field. Neither is the fact that Johnson’s three victories thus far this season give him 30 bonus points with which to start the Chase for the Sprint Cup this fall.
Johnson’s victory at Bristol was his first at the high-banked half mile in Thunder Valley. That’s a surprising statistic, considering his success at Martinsville. Bristol also was his 50th career victory in the Sprint Cup Series, tying him with Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for 10th on the all time win list.
Because 50 wins is a bit of a milestone, here are a couple additional statistics the Johnson haters will not care to hear. Jimmie Johnson achieved 50 wins in just 296 cup races. Just three other drivers achieved the 50-win mark faster. Jeff Gordon was the fastest to get to 50 wins; he made it in just 232 starts. Darrell Waltrip got there in 278, followed by the “Silver Fox,” David Pearson, with 293 starts. Interestingly enough, it took Richard Petty 338 races to get 50 wins. The late Dale Earnhardt took 369.
On reaching the 50 wins milestone, Jimmie Johnson had the following comments: “I’ve watched from afar before I was in the sport and people would say, ‘Anybody but the 3. Anybody but the 24.’ I’m awfully proud to be in that category where they’re saying, ‘Anybody but the 48.’ I think that’s awesome.”
If there’s anything more boring than watching Jimmie Johnson win week after week, it’s Points Racing. A quick look around the Sprint Cup Series shows that Jimmie’s winning. Junior’s improving. Jeff’s giving chase, and the surprising combination of Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth are 1-2 in the series standings. So how did this happen? Neither Harvick or Kenseth have won a race this season.
Consistency has carried the two drivers to the top of the early season. Heading into Martinsville last weekend, Harvick’s lead was a scant 774-773. But just the fact he’s at the top of the standings shows what staying near the front and staying out of trouble can do for you. Harvick may not have won this year, but he’s been close. He started the season with a seventh place run at Daytona, then finished second in consecutive weeks at California and Las Vegas.
Harvick has talked tough about challenging Jimmie Johnson, but come Chase time those 10 bonus points for each win can make a lot of difference.
You may reach Pete Barber