A large part of NASCAR Nation, insiders and fans alike, let up a collective groan Sunday the second they looked down at the Chase standings and saw a familiar name at the top:
At the same time, looking at the big picture shows us seven drivers are sitting within 86 points of Johnson four races in, doubling the previous record during the seven years under NASCAR's Chase format. After a Cinderella victory by
So then why are so many fans still headed for the exits? The answer comes in how much you believe in luck. Last season, Johnson made the next three races -- Fontana, Charlotte and Martinsville -- his personal playground, posting runs of 1st, 1st and 2nd before skating through Talladega, unscathed, to wrap things up. His recent track record at each of those facilities shows that he's far from a one-hit wonder: He's got three Fontana wins in the last four, hasn't finished out of the top 10 at Martinsville since 2002 and has so much success at Charlotte, other drivers have taken to calling the 1.5-mile oval "Jimmie's House."
Looking at the numbers, it means the title is Johnson's to lose and no one else's; but then again, you're forgetting how that rogue element of luck comes into play. Johnson's New Hampshire finish was due to circumstances outside his control, a wreck in front even a reigning four-time champ found impossible to avoid. They also haven't had a faulty engine since Charlotte in May 2008 -- a span of nearly two-and-a-half years. Don't you think at some point, the Bad Luck Fairy might wake up, realize her blatant favoritism and work feverishly to even things out?
Should that happen, we're all right in assuming this Chase is the one where challengers will charge.
But when we're talking about pure luck -- the lone obstacle of the No. 48 already -- it's never a good sign for a team that's made a Hall of Fame career out of knowing how to close the deal.
Time to see if you made your own Johnson luck, whether I picked your question or comment this week. And if you don't see your name in print, don't hesitate to try again: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at
Wow. What a way to start off this week! First off, I question your use of the wording "will deliver" as to how this penalty affected
Your main gripe seems to center around what we talked about last week, that NASCAR's kept silent on penalty details, while Childress mouths off about everything and anything that went on through every step of the process. Finally, through an interview with SIRIUS Satellite Radio over the weekend,
1) To Childress' claim expert
"Dr. Manning never asked to see the car at any time."
2) On whether Childress' and Co. were prevented to see the car at any time:
They were free to examine the car, "Anytime they want"
Those answers were short and sweet, the equivalent to a heavyweight fighter trying to get back in it by throwing one wild, unwieldy punch after losing the first 10 rounds. But while NASCAR's finally doing something, anything to dispute what others are saying, it's still not sitting down and explaining what went wrong. That's all fans are looking for, to be able to make a judgment call instead of playing trial and error with their own fantasy theories. This sport would do well to remember that.
That, right there, is a snippet of the fan perception NASCAR fights on this process. Through a number of missteps the last several years, from something as small to taking Darlington's Labor Day date to the gargantuan lawsuit brought on by former official
In this case, no matter what Mr. Middlebrook decides -- and at press time let the record show Childress thought he got a fair hearing, according to reporters staked out down in North Carolina -- fans have already moved on and made their own judgment. In that sense, it's a bit of a non-story at this point because if most believe the actual process and penalty is unfair, they're either turning off the television or already disgusted to the point the most well-written decision in the world won't get them feeling differently. Just as RCR's bed appears made, the reversal of the penalty a longshot at this point so is NASCAR's continued popularity slide after another much-needed opportunity to open the door and explain their modus operandi.
As for your television gripes ... a certain four-letter network heard them loud and clear. One week after being roundly criticized for going to break with 11 laps remaining, ESPN let the final 23 minutes Sunday run without commercial interruption. Imagine that! An organization listening to the concerns of their fan base. Looks like someone can learn a valuable lesson here.
Eric, once again a big hole of explanation exists from NASCAR, one we'll hopefully get at some point after the appeals process regardless of how many people still pay attention. But this particular penalty couldn't be assessed through measurements gained at the track, leaving your pre- and post-race theory invalid. You need to go to the R&D Center to figure this out and conduct the type of pinpoint deconstruction and measurements needed, a type of secondary opinion this ADD society doesn't want to wait for in their world of sports. As our fan Billy said himself, two things fans don't want are complexity and secrecy when watching an event that's designed primarily for competitive entertainment. This penalty contained a little of both.
Linda, take a minute and look at what you just said. So you don't have a problem with the concept that some cars can get run through the sticks a second time while others get cuffed the second they find a violation? Don't you see the inherent favoritism in that? As a journalist, it's my job to report what I see that's important. And what I see by that simple "break" is inequality, whether it's Jimmie Johnson or
As for Martin, Johnson, and Hamlin I've been whispered to both incidents resembled similar characteristics revolving around the pressurized shocks I described last week. I'd tell you more, but again, NASCAR does not explain the penalties further beyond the press release describing the consequences.
Nice thought, although Childress himself explained the ridiculousness of ignoring a NASCAR warning when they were told the car would be confiscated the following Sunday. But I can confirm the 150 points wasn't for Richmond but because NASCAR handed out the same penalty for a similar body tolerance violation two years earlier. That one involved
Great point, Bill. Here's a way for NASCAR to address the problem: Announce any violations found by any top 12 car after the Richmond race will result in Chase disqualification. And give each one a vigorous post-race inspection to rubber stamp a level field heading into the playoffs. I don't think you'll find a single fan, crew member, or car owner in the garage who would veto that.
You don't let your seven-year-old win every now and then? Man, toughening them up at an early age ...
Ooo, juicy question that's been echoed by more NASCAR fans this year than any other. My question for you, Brad, is what's different about the NFL now than seven years ago? NFL has always been the most popular sport, but pre-Chase NASCAR did a far better job of holding its own against the competition. Keep in mind that's with late afternoon start times, championship races that were often out of hand, and races that were often shown on cable (TNT).
So while I understand everyone's point -- why not wave the white flag of surrender -- it's something this sport never had to do during the fall when it was growing like hotcakes. In my opinion, it all starts with rebuilding the product, because even throwing up a Chase race at noon won't be enough for fans to watch if they're not entertained. I'm sure if the race was a nail-biting affair -- regardless of where your favorite driver was running -- you'd stay tuned in no matter how the favorite local team was faring.
Finally, our out of left field email of the week...
It just goes to show that despite all the negativity surrounding this sport, nothing has changed the overwhelming opinion NASCAR drivers are the most accessible in all of sports. Hope we made your birthday that much brighter by giving you your 15 minutes, Megan.
"Football, lingerie, and mostly hot girls.... thank you to the creator of the Lingerie Football League! U R A GENIUS!"