That collective groan we heard coming from down Daytona way may have emanated from NASCAR headquarters when somebody checked out the 2010 pre-season ratings.
A lot of media soothsayers are picking Jimmie Johnson for a five-peat, adding to his record string of Sprint Cup championship. That’s exactly what the sport doesn’t need right now. NASCAR desperately needs some fresh faces and new contenders rumbling for the title.
Replaying the tape of 2009 won’t do it.
Johnson running away with his fourth straight championship last season didn’t provide much drama, but at least there was an interesting story-line as we watched history being made. Nobody had ever won four straight.
But now that Jimmie has bumped Cale Yarborough out of the record book to take sole possession of the top spot, adding one more title won’t be particularly captivating. Once you’re on top, where do you go from there?
It’s not as though Johnson needs to pad his numbers to make sure nobody ever displaces him. Trust me — nobody’s going to win four in a row again. It had never been done before in the history of the sport and it’ll never be done again. Johnson’s remarkable record is secure for all time. Adding to it may impress historians but it won’t generate a lot of fan excitement.
Another big glitzy trophy for Jimmie? Big (yawn) deal.
Sports fans enjoy watching a dynasty in the making but once its built they can’t wait to see it toppled.
Understand, this is not a criticism of Johnson. What’s he supposed to do, pull over and wait for everybody else to catch up? Drive around with a “Pass Me” sign taped on the rear of his Chevy? He’s simply doing his job — leading laps, winning races and capturing championships. It’s not his fault that nobody can hang onto his shirttail.
But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s boring to watch.
A clean-cut, mild-mannered young man who never makes ripples — much less waves — collecting championship after championship and making it look easy. That’s not going to keep fans on the edge of their seats.
And that’s precisely where NASCAR needs them to be. The sport has steadily been losing its tingle and it needs somebody to stir the pot. It needs some pizzazz.
A fifth straight title by Johnson — particularly another runaway — won’t cut it. Jimmie’s a likeable guy, a heckuva race driver and no one can question his excellence. But frankly there can be too much of a good thing.