May 23, 2012
By Chuck Abrams
Maybe if someone other than Jimmie Johnson had won the All-Star race, there would be less griping going on.
Hot off his win at Darlington, Johnson found the perfect formula for winning his third All-Star event and bringing home a cool million bucks.
That formula was to win a segment race and then not race again until the final segment when it all mattered. And it worked to perfection, much to the chagrin of drivers and fans. By winning the first segment of the race, Johnson & Co. knew they would be one of the first to come to pit road in the final segment. That meant they could pretty much just cruise around in the back thus eliminating any chance of wrecking the car. There was absolutely no incentive to race hard again until the end. The No. 48 car was stout and Johnson is pretty good on restarts, so…
So the result was Johnson getting off the mark well and pulling away from everyone in the final 10 lap shootout that was supposed to be a mad dash for the cash. Well it was a mad dash, it was just that only one car was doing the dashing. And dash he did -- Dashing the hope of anyone else that they might be the one to collect all the money.
Evidently NASCAR never saw this one coming. They thought that all the drivers would drive hard for the entire race because drivers like to race, right? I mean, that is what we have heard time and time again from drivers – they are there to race, period. It may look boring to fans at times, but gosh golly they are racing hard.
Except this time I guess.
More than racing, drivers like to win. And Chad Knaus likes to remind everyone that he can put a car and strategy together that will beat you down. This wasn’t just a win for the money. This was Knaus telling everyone that they had better start thinking about the 48 car claiming a sixth championship.
Johnson did nothing other than play out the hand from the deck that NASCAR dealt. If they could not see the possibility for this type of finish, then they need to open their eyes a bit more. A guy who is good on restarts, with a stout car, can pull away from the field eight times out of 10. And 10 laps is just not enough to reign him in.
NASCAR had no way of knowing Johnson would win one of the segments and then sandbag it until the end. But the possibility for sandbagging was pretty apparent given the format.
The next race is the Coca-Cola 600. This is an endurance race of epic proportions for NASCAR. It is a race of surprising first time winners. Of fuel mileage. Of heartbreak. Of engines blowing up at the 599 mile mark. Of “Wake up honey, it is almost the end.”
While many races are way too long and some races have been shortened to appease a fickle fan base, the 600 remains the monster of all stock car races. Throw in the Indy 500 and you have a day that taxes even the most diehard racing fan.
Dale Jr. fans are chomping at the bit remembering just how close NASCAR’s favorite son came to ending his winless streak, only to run out of fuel with half a lap to go in the green-white-checkers finish. Kevin Harvick won because he was there at the end after not being a factor in the race at all.
So while Chad Knaus is reminding everyone just how good the No. 48 can be, don’t forget that last year Johnson’s engine expired on lap 396 of 402.
So there is hope.
Drive fast, turn left and keep the shiny side up.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.