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The Cool Down Lap: Why is there no love for Jimmie Johnson?

What does Hendrick Motorsports star Jimmie Johnson - a man on the verge of Sprint Cup Series glory for the fourth consecutive year - have to do to gain NASCAR fans' love?
Maybe it's time for Jimmie Johnson to get mean – in a roundabout way, that might earn the three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion the appreciation he deserves.

Johnson stands at history's doorstep. Ninety points to the good with five races left in the 2009 Chase, he is all-but certain to win an unprecedented fourth straight title. Sure, a freak part failure could derail the juggernaut, but three winning years in the heat of the Chase have immunised Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus against self-inflicted catastrophe.

Invariably, when disaster does strike, Johnson and Knaus deal with it surgically. Emblematic is the 2006 race at Indianapolis, where Johnson blew a tyre and lost a lap, but rallied from 39th position to win the race.

So why is there a groundswell of sentiment throughout the grandstands and throughout the garage hoping that, at some point in the next five races, Johnson and Knaus will encounter a problem they can't overcome? Why yearn for a 'better story' when you're watching history unfold in front of you? Could it be that Johnson simply isn't nasty enough to inspire the passions of the fan base?

No-one – on this side of the ocean, at least – seemed to mind when Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France a record seven straight times. Tiger Woods has a legion of fans who would love to see him win every golf tournament he enters.

Johnson's accomplishments, however, haven't captivated the psyche of fans within the sport, much less on a broader scale. After winning for the third time in five Chase races last Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Johnson was accused during the post-race question-and-answer session of 'stinking up the show' with his dominating performance. The Californian countered with the same argument his friend and fellow Chase driver Brian Vickers had made two weeks earlier.

“I mean, I guess I don't understand why people would have a problem with it,” confessed the 34-year-old, who has won 17 of 55 Chase races since the play-off system was introduced in 2004. “Everybody tunes in to watch Tiger win; everybody tunes in to watch [Roger] Federer do his thing on certain courts.

“I'm just doing my thing. I think there are a lot of fans out there that are excited to see what this 48 car is doing, and a lot of people are happy and rooting for us to win a fourth. The rest of them – oh, well...”

Unlike Armstrong, Woods and Federer, though, Johnson hasn't transcended his own sport. Though he is the reigning Cup champion three times over, it's safe to say the average sports fan would be more likely to recognise Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson - Hendrick Motorsport   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, soc during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with the Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualifies in second position Friday, February 27, 2015 for a front row position start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, speaks to members of the media after a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, stands in the garage during a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer drives the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota during a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, interim driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS finishes in sixteenth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finishes in fifth place, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finishes in 33rd place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Gordon, who led for 87 laps,  was involved in a multi-car incident on the last lap. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

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denny - Unregistered

October 21, 2009 4:25 AM

I think a lot of people believe that Chad Knaus who has been caught cheating in past question whether he still is. This results in the lack of JJ support. Just my opinion.



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