For the legions of NASCAR fans so, so tired of seeing Jimmie Johnson dominate week after week, year after year, that sight above of the #48 bashed beyond recognition is a delight. Obviously, because Johnson was just fine, it's OK to gloat.
Certainly, rooting for someone to lose is bad karma. But even the most ardent fans of the 48 have to understand that for everybody else, watching one guy win over and over and over again gets a little old. And what was even more frustrating for people who'd like a little variety in their leaders was the way that Johnson seemed to skate his way out of trouble time after time. You want a guy who could almost literally walk between the raindrops without getting wet, it'd be Johnson.
So how lucky/fortunate has Johnson been? This lucky: in 2006, 2008 and 2009, Johnson had exactly one DNF each year: Crashes in 2006 and 2009 and engine trouble in 2008. (In 2007, Johnson registered four DNFs via crash, but you'll recall that was the year that Johnson won thanks to the Chase points reset.) In 2010, Johnson has had three DNFs already -- one from equipment failure and two from wrecks.
Skill breeds luck in NASCAR -- if you're up front, for instance, there's a much lower chance of getting collected in a multicar crash -- but there's that element of bad fortune that always catches up to everyone somewhere along the line. For four-plus years, Johnson managed to avoid the kind of wipeouts that he had Saturday night -- where AJ Allmendinger skidded from out of nowhere and hammered Johnson, who was doing the NASCAR equivalent of "just standing there."
Statistically and theoretically, there are a couple ways to look at this. One is that he's getting all his year's DNFs out of the way early and he'll be just fine come Chase time. Another is that he's got plenty of DNFs to go before he reverts to the mean for an average NASCAR career, and karma is exacting payback. Either way, the aura of invincibility and invulnerability isn't there right now. He'll be fine come Chase time, but for right now, he's not terrifying everybody just by starting up his engine.
Oh, and hey, for those of you who are still NASCAR fans -- you might want to go phone up all those legions of former fans who said they'd quit because Johnson kept winning. Tell 'em it's OK to come back.