The anti-Jimmie Johnson movement is back in NASCAR.
His win in Saturday night's 400-miler at Daytona International Speedway - that's four wins in 2013, if you're counting - sparked the rerun of anti-Jimmie fan disillusionment with the sport's most dominant driver. The complaints have covered nearly every NASCAR sin, with "wrecking Dale Earnhardt Jr." being about the only one of which Johnson didn't stand accused. But the list was long:
• Johnson's a whiner. (See: complaining more about NASCAR's restart procedures.)
• Johnson's a bad teammate. (See: ditching Kasey Kahne to preserve his lead.)
• Johnson's a reckless driver. (See: Marcos Ambrose/Kasey Kahne incident.)
• Johnson's a cheater. (See: winning.)
• Johnson's too smug. (See: post-race claim of not making a mistake all night.)
All told, Johnson's win in Saturday night's race produced an attitude not unlike that of the New Yorker who has run for elected office on "The Rent Is Too Damn High" platform.
The Johnson wins too damn much!
And let's be honest: The true root of the Johnson angst is just that. Saturday was Johnson's 64th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, and fans disenchanted with Johnson's five dominating years in the Chase for the Sprint Cup are starting to sense that 2013 might be the start of a similar run.
Just look at how silly most of the anti-Johnson arguments really are.
Johnson's move to the top side in a bid to block Ambrose late in the race has been a big factor in his post-Daytona label as a poor teammate. The move split the pairing of Johnson and teammate Kasey Kahne in the bottom line, leaving many to conclude Johnson was only looking out for himself.
Please tell me: How many of those bemoaning Johnson's poor tactics as a teammate - with the checkered flag growing increasingly closer - would deride Dale Earnhardt Jr. making the same move? How many criticize other forms of racing like Formula 1 because of things like team orders?
The argument just doesn't make sense.
I will cede some ground on Johnson's block of Marcos Ambrose that ultimately sent Kahne spinning toward the wall. But even that move wasn't one to think was intentionally dangerous. Johnson simply came off the corner, edged down a bit and tagged Ambrose enough to send him into Kahne. At that place on that track, it's possible Johnson didn't know Ambrose was so close.
The only sensible grumble with Johnson post-Daytona would be a personality one, especially after he talked about being mostly perfect behind the wheel all night. Crew chief Chad Knaus didn't help things by referring to Jimmie as the greatest Cup driver ever in the post-race press conference.
It's easy to see why the non-Jimmie fans would find those statements aloof and smug. But it's also easy to see why Johnson and Knaus make those assertions. They're not far off. In fact, it's a bit refreshing that Johnson and Co. are starting to verbalize how impressive they've been. Sports could use more kings of the hill who make sure their accomplishments are known.
It's all true, too. Johnson's 2013 campaign has been simply stellar. He's raced nearly 90 percent of all race laps in the top 15. His averaging an on-track position of 6.6; he's joined in the single digits of that category by only Matt Kenseth. And he's done this, too, by throwing away wins at Kentucky, Dover and Michigan.
There's no rule that says disliking Johnson is prohibited. But we've reached the point in 2013 where Johnson's success isn't luck and it isn't due to unfair driving. That car, that team and that driver are simply that good this season.
Even if you hate it.
HOT: Kevin Harvick left Talladega Superspeedway in May with another restrictor plate DNF, placed 12th in points and 107 points behind leader Johnson. Since then, he's chiseled 34 points from Johnson's lead and moved to fourth in points on the back of eight straight top-10 finishes. It's streaks like that that make Johnson's sixth title still a long, long way off.
NOT: The dawdling way NASCAR is approaching improving driver and fan safety was on full display this weekend at Daytona. First, the sanctioning body has made no changes to the very Nationwide cars that got in the fence in February and injured more than 30 people. There also has been no change or added impediment to keep fans away from the catchfence during live racing action - a seeming no-brainer after Kyle Larson's fence-shearing February crash.
Last, Denny Hamlin found yet another unprotected wall when he crashed into the frontstretch wall Saturday night. With a $400 million Daytona renovation approved, the lack of SAFER Barrer isn't due to track poverty.
NOT: Saturday night's television broadcast was indeed disjointed and disappointing. The 30-lap finish without full-screen commercials was nice, but not at the expense of the race's first three-quarters being so laden with commercial breaks. That said, it's almost not worth complaining about anymore. This is a symptom of NASCAR's extremely high asking price for television rights that forces TV partners to sell, sell, sell in order to clear a profit. Perhaps it'll change - after 2024.
HOT: I'm glad the idea of running Daytona's summer race on July 4 is gaining some traction again. This sport needs some more regular tradition.
NOT: Somewhat like the Daytona 500, it was interesting to see none of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars around at the end. Denny Hamlin (led 20 laps) crashed and finished 36th. Matt Kenseth led the first lap but never led again before crashing. And Kyle Busch wound up 12th after pacing the pack for 29 laps.
HOT: Terry Labonte slid through the infield during the final wreck and finished 19th. Funny enough, that top-20 finish was his third in his last six races dating to the 2012 Daytona 500.
The Stenica Showdown Cup!
We're keeping track each week of how NASCAR's most important (only?) competitive couple performs against one another. The highest-finishing Sprint Cup result between Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. each week earns a point. Each driver can earn a bonus for doing just about anything else, racing related or not. We should probably start thinking about an appropriate trophy.
Pretty good race for Danica, except for freaking crashing on the last lap. No problem for Ricky, though! He scooted by the mess she caused and won the point in this week's showdown!
1st - Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 17 points (11th at Daytona)
2nd - Danica Patrick., 12 points (14th at Daytona)
Next up: New Hampshire! Join us Sunday on the Yahoo! Sports NASCAR Live Chat!
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Kasey Kahne
- Daytona International Speedway
- Dale Earnhardt Jr
- Marcos Ambrose