Another NASCAR season is in the record books and Jimmie Johnson is left at the top of the heap. Not only is Johnson a four –time winner of NASCAR’s biggest title, but he won all four in consecutive years.
Only three other drivers (Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Jeff Gordon) have ever won 4 or more Championships but none of them have ever done it in four straight years.
What an amazing feat that Johnson and his crew have accomplished by winning their record setting 4th championship in a row – we witnessed history in the making this year that’s for sure.
Other big stories this NASCAR season included Tony Stewart’s break-out performance as an Owner/Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s lack-luster performance, the ‘Big Ones’ at Talladega, and Mark Martin’s almost-Championship drive.
Tony Stewart started this year as a new car owner driving for himself with expectations of maybe making it into the Chase and maybe even being in contention for a win or two at the end of it. Well his performance this year was of Championship caliber heading into the last ten races of the season.
Stewart led the points for a good part of the season and notched himself 4 wins and 15 top 5 finishes on his way to 7th place in the standings. Stewart was also NASCAR’s 2nd largest winnings earner with just over $6.8 million won.
One person who didn’t perform up to expectations this year was Dale Earnhardt Jr. Certainly Earnhardt had higher expectations for himself and his team, as did his fans, and car owner Rick Hendrick. Junior’s frustration over his year was seen in interviews late in the season which sparked an out-cry from his fans who never really have witnessed a slump such as this in Junior’s career – although I see it more as bad luck rather than a slump.
Junior’s driving ability hasn’t changed, and his team doesn’t have bad equipment either, but he has been the victim of some bad luck on the track and off; I mean his crew was involved in a car accident on the way to the track on race day while they were in Phoenix. I don’t care who you are that has got to play on your mind just a little bit for the rest of the day. And that was the way Junior’s season went.
Speaking of driving ability, it doesn’t matter how good you are once the ‘Big One’ happens at Talladega as you are more than likely to get caught up in it somehow. Carl Edwards went for a huge scary ride back in the spring and then Ryan Newman and Mark Martin had somewhat less scary flips but still breath holding none-the-less in the fall. What is the answer to stop these types of accidents? It varies between drivers and so-called NASCAR experts, but to me if they have to slow down in the corners they’ll be less likely to get air-borne when they touch. The only way to do make them slow down is to get rid of the banking in the corners.
You know it was that flip that probably caused Mark Martin the chance for the Championship. I know, Johnson had issues at Texas and Martin made up a bunch of ground, but imagine how much better it would have been if Martin wasn’t in that accident at Talladega and finished in the top 10? He had Johnson mired in the back of the field with two laps left and he was looking at a possible top 5 finish if the cards played out right. Personally I think it was this race that caused Martin his chance at his first Cup. It was the first time he ever flipped a car too.
Martin still had a stellar year and certainly would have won the Championship if it weren’t for the rock solid performance of his teammate Johnson.
Once again Martin is left saying, “Wait until Next year” and given the performance of his team this year I can’t wait for next year because I honestly think Martin will win his first ever Sprint Cup Championship in 2010.