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Monday, August 18, 2014

Even NASCAR's knight has chinks in his armor

English: President Barack Obama visits with 20...
Jimmie Johnson
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm very disappointed in NASCAR's golden boy, Jimmie Johnson!

All we have ever seen or heard from Johnson has been positive. Certainly all that is ever said about him, is glowing. But that isn't the guy we saw Sunday in Michigan when he battled with Ryan Newman on the track and his later remarks.

According to the live action view on the track Johnson appeared to go out of his way to slam into Newman, right about the rear tire. Newman said on the radio that he was concerned about a tire rub. He forged on while his team whipped out the binoculars to check it out. Thankfully, there was no smoke, but it was already too late to resume his pre-confrontational battle with Johnson.

All this occurred while the two were dueling, in the closing laps of the race, for tenth place. Johnson repeated his on-track exclamation more than once. He clearly intended to resort to whatever it took to get Newman out of his way.

Obviously Newman lost the momentum he needed to continue his charge to the front of the pack, resulting in an 11th place finish.

Jimmie's on-track behavior may be chalked up to frustration, but his off-track interview was over-the-top. It showed a total lack of character and how much he too has fallen for all the media hype about how great he is.

"Oh, it was just normal Ryan Newman stuff. Anybody who has watched this sport long enough or has been in a race car out there understands the frustration that comes along with racing Ryan," Johnson said after Ryan confronted him post-race.

Isn't the on-track action supposed to be a race, a competition? Apparently Johnson thinks he is the only one on the race track that has had obstacles to overcome. This was a particularly difficult race for Johnson, whose shifter lever broke, making it impossible to shift gears. He tried to attach vice grips after a green flag pit stop and while entering the racing surface. Had any other driver tried that, they would have been black-flagged by NASCAR, but not Johnson. His heroics didn't work, so his crew had to fix it during the next pit stop anyway. He did have to overcome a lap down condition, but so did Newman. The two drivers were comparable, running similar speeds and positions during the entire race. One difference however, is that Johnson, who is already locked into the Chase for the Championship with three wins this year and six championship rings from years past, is said to be in a slump. Newman, on the other hand, is in his first season with a new team, experiences the kind of challenges Johnson had, nearly every week. He is fighting for a chase berth and is winless this season. He is fighting hard, as he always does, yet Johnson supporters are calling Newman the bully? 

Johnson's remarks were uncalled for. No matter how frustrated he is and how much he's had to overcome, Johnson is not the only one fighting on the track. Drivers are not supposed to slow down to let Johnson pass. While it is true that many drivers have whined about how hard it is to get past Newman, but, isn't that his job?

I've watched racing long enough to know that Newman knows when his car can't compete with the speed of another. And in those times, he does let others get past him. But that wasn't the case Sunday. He was just as fast as Johnson. So for Johnson to resort to smashing into Newman's rear tire was a low blow. Had it happened just once, Johnson could have claimed that he simply got loose and drifted up the track. But, he did it numerous times.

Being a winner doesn't require character. The real mark of character comes when things aren't going so well. Newman exhibits character each and every week. He is always fair-minded. Too bad the same can't be said for Jimmie Johnson. He was certainly no golden boy on Sunday.