A little food for thought this morning: Why has Jimmie Johnson been so successful in Sprint Cup? Currently, he's won three consecutive championships, plus a ton of races, at this time, 40 wins since he drove his first Cup race in 2001. Out of 258 total Cup starts, Johnson has finished in the top 5 101 times, and 157 times in the top 10. Jimmie has also won 19 poles in his Cup career so far.
Jimmie Johnson has never finished higher than 5th in points for any season since he began running full time in the Cup series in 2002. Twice he finished 2nd in points, and of course, he's also finished first for the last three seasons. To say the obvious, basically no one has enjoyed as much success in the Cup series in such a short time, at least not in a long time. Kyle Busch is a hot driver, and he may eventually eclipse Jimmie Johnson, but so far, Jimmie has to be considered a top driver in the series since 2002.
It's often reported, and repeated by members of the various teams at Hendrick Motorsports, that all the teams share information and technology. That may or may not be absolutely true. One factor that comes into play is the fact that the registered owner of Jimmie Johnson's 48 Lowe's Chevrolet is not Rick Hendrick, but Jeff Gordon. Now I'm certainly not an insider in NASCAR circles, which means I have no special intelligence or information regarding exactly how information is shared at Hendrick Motorsports. There is an old saying, I think that can be attributed to George Orwell, which states that some pigs are more equal than others. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that Jimmie Johnson is a little more equal than some of the other drivers on his team.
That's not to say that Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, and by proxy, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are being short changed, but with crew chief Chad Knaus calling the shots, I'm pretty sure that Jimmie Johnson can rest assured that he is driving the very best equipment available, every single race. And why not? The man has won 3 Cup championships for Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson is obviously a talented driver, because great equipment or not, a poor driver could not achieve all that Jimmie has.
Jimmie Johnson is not my favorite driver. If I based my loyalty to drivers on statistics alone, he probably would be, but that's not what I do, and I hazard to guess, neither do you. We see little in the way of personality when Jimmie is interviewed. He has broken out of the robot mold a little this season, sporting a beard, which surprised me. Most Hendrick drivers are always clean shaven, even during practice, with the obvious exception being Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Personally, I find Jimmie Johnson to be a likable guy, if not particularly interesting. He's a made for TV kind of driver, always thanking his sponsors and team, and rarely saying anything that can be construed as controversial. In other words, he's a sponsor's and owner's dream driver. He goes about his business quietly, and so far, has been racking up wins and championships.
Like him or not, Jimmie Johnson is an impressive driver on the track. I know there will be knocks on Cheater Chad because I'm saying this, and there is some value to those opinions. It could be said that Jimmie had 'special' equipment back in 2006, or even 2007. The Car of Tomorrow rules more or less even the playing field these days though. Though Jimmie has not won a race so far in 2009, he's still been a factor in most of the races run so far.
God willing, Jimmie Johnson will be around for a long time. He's not my favorite driver, but I can't help but admire his accomplishments.
Photo courtesy of Cox News.