So I hear Jimmie Johnson is back. Wait ... When was he gone? Did I miss something?
Prior to Johnson’s second-place finish at Dover on Sunday, he was 10th with one top-10 finish so far in the Chase. Sure he was down in points, but that didn’t make me think he was done.
Then there was talk about Johnson calling out his crew chief, Chad Knaus, over the radio at New Hampshire and suggesting a rocky relationship could result in an end to his NASCAR championships. To me, the words they exchanged are nothing out of the ordinary. It happens all the time. These drivers are focused on the job at hand, and it’s a silly time to talk nuances.
I know driver/crew chief pairings are critical to success in this sport. It’s teamwork. That’s why it’s called a race team. We’ve seen pairings like Richard Petty and Dale Inman, Dale Earnhardt and Kirk Shelmerdine, and Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham lead to multiple championships before.
But I think the assumption that Johnson’s chances of a sixth consecutive championship could be over because of a change in relationship with Knaus diminishes what he has accomplished. Johnson is the one behind the wheel. The man is a legend. He's won five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.
Obviously, Johnson also has been reading these stories about his so-called diminishing performance. After Sunday’s race, he made the comment: "Are we out of it? Last week I was considered done."
It's not hard to make up points in this Chase system. Look at the standings now. The top-nine drivers are within 19 points of each other. This system is working exactly the way NASCAR wants it to -- a close competition. The only person too far out to win this thing in my opinion is Denny Hamlin.
So you can't ever write Johnson off. He's still got the drive. The hunger. The passion. He's still the man and to be the man, you've got to beat the man. And everybody knows they've got to beat Johnson.