May 28, 2012
By Matthew Pizzolato
Being successful in any endeavor in life always brings with it people who wish to see you fail.
When someone achieves the unprecedented success of winning five consecutive NASCAR championships, others not only hope for failure, they begin to wish for change.
So undoubtedly, some were quite happy with the news that Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team received some very stiff penalties for infractions during the Daytona 500 race weekend.
However, Hendrick Motorsports appealed the penalties and they were largely overturned after the process went through NASCAR's final arbitrator John Middlebrook.
Johnson didn't let the penalties or his poor finish at Daytona -- he wrecked on the second lap and finished 42nd -- keep him from focusing on winning another championship. He's been steadily climbing up the point standings ever since and hasn't thought about how the penalties would have affected his season had they not been overturned.
"To be honest with you I kind of forgot about it. Without a doubt it would have impacted the team. We have a lot of depth in our organization and I feel like we would still be going down the right road and advancing our cars," Johnson was quoted as saying in a press conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It’s really tough to say if it would have led to the last two weeks or not. No doubt losing your crew chief and in that situation the car chief those are very important positions in the race team and it would have had an impact."
Instead, he has been focusing on getting his car to Victory Lane. Two weeks ago at Darlington, he did just that and gave his team owner, Rick Hendrick, his 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
Johnson followed that success by winning NASCAR's All-Star race last weekend. While he may have been off the radar during the first part of the season, according to Johnson, his recent success should come as no surprise.
"We are really pleased with where our cars are right now. I have been sitting up here telling all of you that we are close and it is coming and look at the laps led and all that stuff," Johnson said. "I’m glad to be able to back up what I have been talking about over these last few months. It really just boils down to the hard work that has come through the engine shop, chassis shop, our engineering staff and the crew chiefs."
According to the numbers, last season was the worst of Johnson's career because it marked the first time as a full-time driver that he didn't finish inside the top-5 in points. He finished 2011 in sixth place, a result that many drivers would gladly have taken.
Yet, Johnson is clearly eyeing championship number six and believes his team is headed in the right direction.
"We have a better product this year. We have been able to be close to Victory Lane a few times so far this year and then we got it done the last two weeks. Obviously, winning during the All-Star race is very helpful it’s a great starting point to come back with. We are excited to get on the track today and through the course of the weekend. We feel like we will be a threat for the win."
As long as Johnson feels like he is a threat to win, he should be considered a threat for the championship as well. It's no secret the he does extremely well under the Chase for the Championship point format and excels at the tracks that compose it.
At this point in the season, who is running stronger that Johnson? Not more than a handful of other drivers and no one has had to overcome as much this season as had Johnson. Given his proven record at winning championships, what's to keep him from winning Championship No. 6 this year?
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
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.