Race Weekend Central

Why Can’t NASCAR Fans Be Impressed with Perfection?

OMG! Did you see that? Jimmie Johnson won! He won his 76th race in a Sprint Cup career spanning fifteen years. It was…entirely expected. As the media sing the praises of the latest addition to the Earnhardt plane of accomplishment, there’s a large contingent of fans who face the news with the indifference worthy of a mid-pack team.


Why is that? Is it because Jimmie Johnson still maintains as vanilla a reputation as he has always had? No, not really. Fans are willing to look past his apparent perfection.


Maybe it’s the connection to Hendrick Motorsports. More than a few have hated Mr. H for about two decades for a number of reasons. However, you can’t say the association is what put the nail in Johnson’s popularity as his recently retired teammate Jeff Gordon enjoyed the highest levels of popularity coming out of the same shop for more than twenty years.


Did Johnson steal this week’s win? Did that put a damper on the celebration? Uh, no. It was Chad Knaus’ pit and tire strategy that brought home the new trophy. The No. 48 team deserved that victory.


So, what? What is it that heralds the AP’s latest NASCAR headline with less than the expected amount of fan fare?


It is the same old story. In fact, that exact tale is what describes the careers of the top 15 drivers on the Sprint Cup All-time Wins list. The top 15 on that hallowed list represent a total of 1,152 wins and 47 wins since 1949. In short, drivers like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson have done no less than stink up the show since we been putting a herd of cars on ovals. Week in and week out, year after year, NASCAR fans have had a single unifying cry, “He’s winning it all!”


Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 gave us just what we expected and none of what we wished for; same old winner.


Sometimes it makes you wonder if we really cheer for the winners, or would we actually prefer to make some noise for the likes of Josh Wise, Landon Cassill and Casey Mears? Yet, in typical human fashion, we often like to say one thing while do another. It isn’t Cassill’s section at the Fanatics trackside store that is crammed elbow to elbow with people eager to empty their pockets and decorate their person. No, the No. 48 shelves are the ones being stripped bare on a regular basis.


And even though Johnson will continue his Search for Seven championships, and there’s all the indications that this “ordinary” accomplishment is highly achievable for our current version of a racing Superman, because he joins an elite group of drivers who have stuffed the NASCAR Hall of Fame with their tales of triumph, somehow we’ve lost track of how very special his abilities really are.


The fact Johnson tends to roll into Victory Lane without breaking a sweat or having a major emotional breakdown as the confetti flies, it is too easy for us arm-chair enthusiasts to write off the fact that there are really so few people that live on his plane of existence, now and in the past. Even the mythical and revered driver of the Goodwrench No. 3, Dale Earnhardt Sr., was booed when he snared one more win and one more Cup.


So, France and Co. will busy themselves with adding the No. 48 to a very small list of names, run up a new flag and issue a few more PR releases on this historic moment in NASCAR. The wider world will be aware for an instant of the fact that records were tied and ready to be broken. Young drivers trying on their machines for the first time will endeavor to become the next Jimmie Johnson.


However in the diners and neighborhood garages, the tried and true NASCAR fan will grunt, wipe their greasy fingers on the faded blue and gold T-shirt and tell their Sunday TV buddies, “Yeah, well what else did we expect.”


Sometimes being the best can be so very boring.




While we watched Johnson do everything that always happens at the track, something new occurred when Kyle Busch notched another win in his Xfinity career…the fans cheered. At least you can hear more of them liking his burnout than hating on it. I guess times do change.




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