Johnson Putting NASCAR's Chase to Shame

Jimmie Johnson

This Chase for the Sprint Cup thing? It was supposed to be exciting down to the wire. And when I say "down to the wire", I mean something like 2004 when Kurt Busch beat Johnson by 8 points at Homestead in the season's final race and NASCAR's first ever Chase season.

Not "down to the wire" in a way that sees the two-time defending Sprint Cup champion locking up the Chase -- for all intents and purposes -- with 40 percent of the action left via his current 159-point lead over Greg Biffle.

Take that percentage and apply it to the last full-season championship won in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series by Matt Kenseth and the Wisconsin driver looks like a guy who had to battle incredibly hard for his 2003 title. Instead, he gets blamed by Chase haters for giving NASCAR a reason to change the entire makeup of the championship system by making it seem to easy.

What's this tell us? Well a few things actually.

First, Johnson is a fantastic driver who hasn't lucked into anything -- and oh, his team is darn good too. Second, no matter what NASCAR does, all sports get dominated at times with such tenacity that it puts anything designed for excitement to shame.

And third, NASCAR really needs to look at the PGA.

It's not hard to see the similarities on how Jimmie Johnson has won his two championships and presumably his third: He starts consistent then finds a groove in the Chase's second half to grind out win after win after win (after win). And most of the time, he gets darn lucky by avoiding Talladega trouble or has it when everyone else does.

What's the scariest aspect about how well Johnson has performed in the Chase? He's 135 points away (8 in 2004 and 127 in 2005) from being ready to secure his fifth Sprint Cup title after Homestead in November.

I wonder what NASCAR's reaction would be to this Chase format had Johnson been batting perfectly in the Chase title format? Hello, rule changes!

So what's this business about NASCAR and the PGA?

To me, it's simple. NASCAR needs to Jimmie-proof its schedule if it really expects new faces and teams to be numero uno on stage in New York City come this November. The PGA did it with Augusta National -- home of the yearly Master's major -- by making adjustments to the course to "Tiger-proof" it. (Not that I could tell you what they were, I just know they've happened.)

Also, the PGA has a system of rotating three of its four majors each year to different courses -- meaning golfers aren't going to be able perfect their skills on a certain course and truly apply it the next time out. It could work for NASCAR in some way, shape, or form.

Don't get me wrong here, Johnson deserves all the credit in the world for what he and his team have done over the past few years in NASCAR. Sure, I have a tough time digesting the talk about how he's about to become the first driver since Cale Yarborough in 1970s to win three straight titles because of how different it is now, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate Johnson.

He and his team are great -- fantastic, even -- at 1.5-mile tracks, restrictor plate tracks, and Martinsville. Coincidentally, tracks of those descriptions fill 70 percent of the ten race Chase. Is that a common denominator in my mind?

Without a stinkin' doubt.

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