History has been rewritten. Records rebroken. The sports world has been hyping the event all week The biggest sporting event of the weekend. Bigger than the Colts/Patriots game. Bigger than the Packers/Vikings game.
Yes, I am of course talking about the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Jimmie Johnson is the Rodger Federer, Tiger Woods, or Michael Jordan of NASCAR. The man had won a record 4 straight Sprint Cups (equivalent of winning the FedEx Cup in the PGA, Wimbledon in the ATP, or winning the NBA championship).
Johnson came into the Sprint Cup Series finale Sunday trailing leader Denny Hamlin by 15 points Many NASCAR analysts and experts thought Hamlin would win the Sprint Cup this year and end Johnson’s run.
That was not to be, as Johnson finished the race in second place, good enough to edge Denny Hamlin, who finished a disappointing 14th, and outlasted any surge from 3rd place contender Kevin Harvick.
No one In the 62 previous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series had ever won 4 straight cups and Johnson stretched that record to 5 Sunday at the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Many people believe Jimmie Johnson is the best driver NASCAR will ever have due to the sheer dominance he has shown over the last half decade.
Pivotal to Johnson’s success is his team. I didn’t realize how much racing was a team sport until I met my best friend Cody Wilson.
Cody raced professional Moto-X (dirt bike racing) from early teenage years. He would tell me about how much time, money and energy his parents sacrificed for him and his racing dreams in order for him to succeed. The Wilson family home is up in Idaho Falls, where you’ll find a garage packed with podium finish trophies from Cody’s races, and he gives all the credit to his dad Reuben and crew for the work they did on the bike and for the ongoing support.
Strangely enough, another friend of mine, Jessica Price, is an actual pit crew member for her father Bud Price (I know, swapped roles here).
Bud Price is a local drag racecar driver in the Salt Lake City area. Price races at Rocky Mountain Raceways and was the 2007 NHRA Northwest Division Summit Racing Series champion in the Sportsman class, driving a ’71 Mustang.
Jessica has been part of the crew and a racing fan since she was a young girl. When asked about her feelings on NASCAR, she simply said, “I love it! It’s amazing all around.”
I knew she had been a crew member for her dad and she would know more than anyone the impact a crew has on the success of a winning driver, (aka I wanted to know how much the abilities of Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew have played in his run to 5 championships in a row). Honestly, her comments surprised me.
When asked how important reflexes, instinct and reaction time are to a driver on the track she told me “drivers are in their own world out there on the track. We [the pit crew] put forth our all so that the driver can remain focused and in their world.”
The way she and Cody talk about racing rings clear that as large a role as the driver or rider plays in the success of a team, it is just that… a team, a crew. I’d like to see how much recognition the drivers would get if, when they took a pit stop, they had to get out of the car change each of their tires, refuel, tape up cracks, and hammer out dings on their own, before heading back out.
One thing’s for certain. Jimmie Johnson is an amazing race car driver with a pit crew that allows him to stay in contention for the championship each year by season’s end. Are there crews faster than Johnson’s? Yes. Are there drivers who can beat Johnson on the track? Of course. But what it than Johnson’s? Yes. Are there drivers who can beat Johnson on the track? Of course. But what it comes down to, is consistency and a trust between the driver and his crew that the combination of comes down to, is consistency and a trust between the driver and his crew that the combination of the racing speed and pit speed will bring success in the results after of exhaust, smoke and dust clears.
Next up, the pursuit of #6 for Jimmie Johnson and #48 car crew.