By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Jimmie Johnson has won four-consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, and after five races this season he looked to be a sure bet to win five-straight. Just six races ago Johnson was perched high atop the point standings, where he has been for the most part of the past four seasons, but then the rear spoiler was brought back into NASCAR replacing the infamous wing.
Since that race not only has Johnson not won a race, but his season has began to spiral out of control. He has had two DNF’s since the inception of the spoiler, and has slipped to 110 points behind Kevin Harvick for the point lead. No big deal you say? Well after Martinsville Johnson was 68 points ahead of Harvick… that’s a 178 point swing in just four races. Not only that, but from 2008 to 2009 Johnson tallied a total of just two DNF’s. He now has three in 2010 following his incident in Saturday’s Showtime Southern 500, and we aren’t even a third of the way through the year.
This season is in fact spiraling out of control, and if Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus can’t find some magic soon things could get out of hand in my opinion.
The thing that Johnson has had over the field for the past couple of seasons is a distinct mental advantage. Drivers have seen his squeaky clean image, and the fact that he rarely crashes, but anytime there is a glimpse of a weakness it gives others hope… that’s all they need. Many drivers such as Kevin Harvick support the “Horseshoe Theory”.
“They’re really good, but they’re also really, really lucky,” Harvick said. “They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their (expletive) — there’s no getting around that.” Harvick said, following Johnson’s victory at California.
So an incident such as the one at Darlington, where Johnson was particularly un-lucky, has to be the catalyst for a collective sigh of relief in the Sprint Cup Series garage… especially for those who support Harvick’s theory. If Johnson has ran out of money in the luck bank, then the championship is anyone’s to win.
In case you missed the Southern 500, Johnson got caught in an incident early with Greg Biffle, and Martin Truex Jr. Johnson would end up going down a lap, but he would eventually earn the “Lucky Dog” free pass to get his lap back, and it appeared that in typical Johnson fashion he would end up with a good finish. However just laps later A.J. Allmendinger slid through the turn with no control of his car. Allmendinger came across the track and impacted Johnson’s car very hard, and a very scary crash ensued. Allmendinger explained that a mechanical failure led to the crash.
“The brake rotor exploded. The last 40 or 50 laps we were struggling with brake problems and just no brakes.” Allmendinger said, “but I was just trying to aim for the bottom and try to miss everybody. I’m sorry to Jimmie. It wasn’t his fault, but I had no brakes and couldn’t do anything about it.”
Johnson, who looked physically rattled, weighed in on his night.
“Unfortunately, we had all kinds of issues tonight,” said Johnson. “We got caught up in all kinds of little small things, but still had a very fast race car, and I think we could have salvaged a top-10, top-five finish today. It is too bad.”
There was obviously disappointment in Johnson’s voice, as things for once didn’t quite fall in favor of the No. 48 team. You can’t argue that Johnson’s latest luck hasn’t been anywhere near what it has been for the past four seasons. That in itself has to have others particularly Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who has been the hottest driver as of late, licking their chops.