Monday, November 20, 2006

The Champ!

Photo Credit: US PRESSWIRE Copyright © 2006 Mark J. Rebilas

We can all breath a sigh of relief now, for Jimmie Johnson has won the NASCAR Nextel Cup. We have known, since his 2002 rookie season that it was only a matter of time before the naturally talented driver won a NASCAR Cup championship. He had to. Johnson has not finished a season outside the top five in points standings in five years, and even came within eight points of winning it at the end of the final race of 2004. It may as well be sooner than later, and the #48 team got it over with.
Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus deserve it. After the first four races of the Chase for the Championship, the #48 team was so far out of the lead that many sports writers had counted him out, but the team literally turned up the juice and excelled in the last six races, including four second place finishes in a row.
Knaus is one of the smartest crew chiefs in the business--not the smartest, because he has been caught "pushing the envelope" in the grey area of the NASCAR rule etch-a-sketch, and was suspended for four races earlier in the season. But the #48 team is strong, and carried on without him, establishing a reputation as a team that could come back from adversity, which they have done throughout the season.
Johnson didn't have to win the race at Homestead--all he had to do was finish twelfth or better to clinch the championship. He didn't just hang out safely in twelfth the entire race. Much to the delight of many a race fan, he competed; leading a lap during green flag pit stops, and coming back from a pit stop snafu in which the bit from an air wrench got stuck on a lug nut, dropping him sixteen places. "Anything can happen" was a phrase which remained in our minds right up to the checkered flag. Johnson had a car which could have won, but he wasn't going to do anything stupid to jeopardize his chances, and he couldn't be blamed for that. He finished ninth, giving him plenty of points to win the Championship, and yet another top-ten finish. Like him or not, this guy is good.
Greg Biffle won the race. Again, we have to think, "it's about time." Biffle's team has struggled this season--since winning at Darlington on the eve of Mother's Day, the #16 team's performance has been less than satisfactory. Perhaps it was the level of competition this year, but Biffle is expected to compete at a championship level. Much of his misfortune this season has been exactly that--the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being caught up in somebody else's mistakes. Some of it was brought on by the driver himself, for Greg Biffle has a tendency to be over-aggressive and to overdrive the turns, often putting him into the back of another car. This is something that can be cured by experience--many a great driver has shown the same flaws early in his career--Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, AJ Foyt, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon, to name a few. Hopefully, Biffle, whom we feel is championship material, will overcome his shortcomings as well as these other drivers did. At any rate, we are happy to see Greg Biffle find Victory Lane in the last race in what was a disappointing season for him.
Now that the season is over, I hope my readers will continue to visit this blog. Off-season is a time of withdrawal for the true NASCAR addict, but I plan on keeping the hunger fed with some more opinionated drivers' profiles, similar to those posted here early in the season. I will also write some book reviews, and write on some subjects of entertainment other than NASCAR. It's the end of the season, not the end of the world, and the Daytona 500 is only a few weeks away. Hang in there.


yellowdog granny said...

yeah, but babs is in a funk now..her matt didn't win and i think he should have...victory was 'snatched' right from him...rats..

Babs said...

only a few weeks away? It's forever until Daytona. Hope you had a great Turkey Day!