[quote align=” alignright” width=”200″]You can’t take credit away from Jimmie Johnson and his well earned Championships without taking credit away from all of those that have raced or are still racing, and winning multiple Championships.[/quote]I am wrong and I will admit it. It usually takes me a while to admit it when I realize that a mistake has been made on my part, but it generally comes out, and with a good explanation. Let me tell you where I ran afoul of the truth. Mr five time. Yep, that’s right, Jimmie Johnson.
I’ve been one of Johnson’s harshest critics by claiming that his record of five Championships was not as meaningful as what some of the earlier Champions had accomplished.
Justifying the Wrong Conclusion
As justification, I pointed to the lack of parity in the field. I never thought it was a great idea to have cars in the field that took the green flag and ran a few laps then pulled in the garage and parked it. When you beat a field that has even a handful of “start and park” teams, it takes away a little bit from the competition. It has to. But, that’s not Jimmie’s fault.
I’ve also pointed at the team that Johnson was with. Hendricks has put together one of the most dominant teams that NASCAR has ever seen. Not since Karl Kiekhaefer breezed into NASCAR has a team bought it’s way to the top. Again, that’s not Jimmie’s fault.
While these things do take a little shine off of the Championship chrome, Jimmie did what he was suppose to do, and he did it better than anyone else in that five year run. Period.
In 1994, CRA closed it’s doors after completing 5 nights of action. In 1993, after the CRA cancelled a race at the Ventura Raceway, the majority of the members left, formed SCRA and honored the date on Nov.13, 1993. They continued the tradition of non-wing 410 sprint car racing until the end of 2004.
1994 Ron Shuman
1995 Lealand McSpadden
1996 Ron Shuman
1997 Ron Shuman
1998 Richard Griffin
1999 Richard Griffin
2000 Richard Griffin
2001 Cory Kruseman
2002 Richard Griffin
2003 Richard Griffin
2004 Rickie Gaunt
2004 Rip Williams
2005 Damion Gardner
2006 Cory Kruseman
2007 Tony Jones
2008 Mike Spencer
2009 Mike Spencer
2010 Mike Spencer
2011 Mike Spencer
A Change of Heart
You may be wondering what brought about this change of heart. That’s a good question but you need to look no further than what has been happening in Sprint Cars since the 1950s.
This epiphany struck me as my friend Mike Spencer just won the AMSOIL USAC/CRA title for the fourth straight year. Spencer earned those Championships. Sure, there will be some that say he is with a strong team, and that cannot be disputed. The Ron Chaffin/Bruce Bromme Jr. team is very experienced and cohesive.
Why Spencer’s Championships are Meaningful
I can respond to those who say that the Chaffin/Bromme team bought those Championships by explaining that the other racers on the track didn’t just move over and let Spencer pass without putting up a fight.
Before each race I would walk through the pit area and talk to the racers. There was never a single racer that said “I think I am going to finish last tonight.” Not one. They may have had different goals, but none of them came to lose.
I talked to one racer that told me he wanted to be the top finishing 360 in the pack (USAC/CRA allows the 360s to run with the 410s). Then I would talk to another racer that wanted to beat his career best finish while another racer looked to make the top three. There were several that always told me that tonight was their night and they came to win. But I never heard one of them say that they were just there to turn laps so Mike Spencer could win.
What Mike Spencer and the #50 team did this year was pretty incredible and by wrapping up the fourth Championship in a row, it puts them in rare air.
The Proof is in the Past
You can go back in CRA, SCRA and USAC/CRA history, and this achievement rivals Ron Shuman’s four consecutive Championships from 1988 to 1991. Jimmie Oskie’s 4 Championships in 6 years (1974,1976,1977 and 1979) is still an impressive feat. The late, great Dean Thompson put together three Championships from 1980 through 1982. Richard “the Gasman” Griffin took home 5 Championships in 6 years (1989,1999,2000,2002 and 2003).
In my mind, if you discredit what Spencer has achieved in the past four years, then you have to take credit away from what these other multiple year Champions achieved. That’s just not going to happen. These driver’s earned their Championships, and they earned them the hard way; by racing other drivers that wanted the same thing.
The Bottom Line
You can’t take credit away from Jimmie Johnson and his well earned Championships without taking credit away from all of those that have raced or are still racing, and winning multiple Championships.
I was wrong, and I admit it. Jimmie Johnson’s Championship run was historic. It was as historic as Mike Spencer’s, Ron Shuman’s, Jimmie Oskie’s, Dean Thompson’s and Richard Griffin’s Championship runs.