A Handful of Considerations: Jimmie and Chad, Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Jr.

November 16, 2009 Updated: November 20, 2009

Jimmie Johnson celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, November 15, 2009.Arizona. (Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, November 15, 2009.Arizona. (Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
I have been hearing a lot of complaints about the “Jimmie and Chad Show.” A lot of fans seem to think that Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are ruining NASACR with their yearly domination of the Chase.

To this I can only reply, “May the best team win.” Best car, best strategy, best driver = Winner! Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson has been the best combo for the past four seasons, and deserve to win.

A scene too often repeated for some fan' tastes: Jimmie Johnson takes yet another checkered flag. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
A scene too often repeated for some fan' tastes: Jimmie Johnson takes yet another checkered flag. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
I would love to have seen Mark Martin win the championship. Thing is, he didn’t (he still might, but I wouldn’t advise holding one’s breath.) My second choice would have been Kurt Busch or Jeff Gordon, or even Kyle Busch. Thing is, none of those guys will win either.

And that’s the thing. The winning team has to actually go out and Win the Chase. Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus keep doing that. Everyone else keeps losing.

Is it that Jimmie Johnson is leaving the rest behind, or is it that the rest of the field is failing to keep up? Either way, it looks like four in a row for Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Is it that Jimmie Johnson is leaving the rest behind, or is it that the rest of the field is failing to keep up? Either way, it looks like four in a row for Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Mark Martin had the fastest car on the Phoenix track Sunday … until the first round of pit stops. Kurt Busch had a race-leading car. Jeff Gordon had a really fast car … But their crews couldn’t adapt to changing track conditions, while Chad Knaus made the right adjustments at the right time. Those other teams couldn’t adapt, so they Lost.

Jeff Burton had a blazingly fast car, but he choked in qualifying. He admitted that he lost the race on Friday, by only qualifying thirty-sixth. He Lost.

(L-R) Jimmie Johnson celebrates with his crew chief Chad Knaus and team owner Rick Hendrick after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 17, 2009. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(L-R) Jimmie Johnson celebrates with his crew chief Chad Knaus and team owner Rick Hendrick after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 17, 2009. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
So long as all the other teams keep not reaching their full potentials, or fail to operate to the standards set by Chad and Jimmie … they will lose, and Chad and Jimmie will continue to dominate. It isn’t their fault. They can't win unless the other teams don't.

That’s racing. The combination of the crew, crew chief, and driver that makes the fewest mistakes and also makes the right adjustments, runs fastest and wins. That is how it should be.

Some people say it is boring to see one car way out ahead of all the rest, but that is racing. Some people say it is boring to see the same driver and crew win every season, but that is racing. In the real world, that stuff happens.

I am all for the little guy, the underdog, the long shot. But fans who get upset because Jimmie Johnson wins, need to ask the other teams why They aren’t winning. It sure isn’t Jimmie’s fault.

Hendricks Motorsports drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Mark Martin pose prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500, February 7, 2009. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Hendricks Motorsports drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Mark Martin pose prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500, February 7, 2009. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Hendrick Motorsports: How Do They Do It?

Another amusing complaint I read somewhere: Someone wanted Mark Martin to win, and was upset because Jimmie Johnson kept beating him. This person was all upset because Jimmie was dominating.

Funny, no one seems to notice that Hendrick Motorsports owns the top three Chase teams.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not had a happy year, or a happy career. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not had a happy year, or a happy career. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
I don’t know what Hendrick Motorsports is doing that works so well, but other teams need to sit up and take notice.

I do notice that Hendricks drivers don’t get involved in that “Tag me and I will tag you” drama that seems to put at least a couple cars into the wall each race. Certain less-successful teams might want to have a word with their drivers.

But that isn’t all of it. Somehow the Hendrick cars run right more often than anyone else’s. And I don’ think it is cheating; I can guarantee you, Jimmie Johnson’s car gets scrutineered to death after every race. (My theory is that NASCAR would actually prefer Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, or—best case scenario—Dale Jr. to win the championship. Those other teams just won’t cooperate.)

And it isn’t just money. Penske and Ganassi have money, experience, talent … few and far between are the series those two teams can’t dominate. But NASCAR Sprint Cup is certainly one of them. I just can’t figure why.

For some reason, the top three Hendricks teams get it more right more often.

I am not interested in simply Jimmie Johnson’s domination. I wonder how the whole Hendrick Motorsports team can dominate so totally every year.

But Bravo! guys; you are earning it, however you do it. Bravo.

For whatever reason, the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't respond to the Hendrick touch. (John Harrelson/Getty Images)
For whatever reason, the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't respond to the Hendrick touch. (John Harrelson/Getty Images)

The Earnhardt Conundrum

This brings me to my final consideration: What’s up, Dale?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the only Hendrick-operated outfit that can’t seem to get with the program. This team is the dark mark on the Hedrick scorecard. Why Can’t Dale Jr. perform?

I have heard all the rumors about drinking and stress, and not being able to cope with his legacy, but … this is a driver who knows how to win.

Since 2000, when he started racing full time, he has amassed eighteen wins, but only a 17.13 average finish. 2009 is his fist winless season; his best finishes were a second and a third. But his average finish for 2009 … a dismal 23.1.

Not that that is really bad, in a 43-car field. He is a steady mid-packer, by the numbers.

The problem is, he runs really well now and then, and abominably the rest of the time.

He left DEI to join the best operation in NASCAR, and that didn’t help. Maybe he needs to consider the Michael Waltrip option: Run a team if you can’t run up front for a team?

But why is it that Hendrick Motorsports can’t help him? Is it that he won’t listen, or they won’t talk to him? They have swapped and switched to get him the crew he wanted, or the crew he needed, but the Hendrick magic seems not to affect him.

There is nothing wrong with running 23rd. Driving for a living beats a lot of other professions, and Dale Jr. is middle-of-the-pack in a pack of the best oval-track racers in the world. Not too shabby on the resumé. If it works for him, it is fine with me.

But I am mystified: why can’t the Hendrick touch, touch him.

I bet Bill France and Company are asking the same question.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and in no way reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Please send comments to james.fish@epochtimes.com.