This past season Jimmie Johnson made history for the second time. He won his fifth straight championship, even when it looked like he wouldn’t be there in the end, he still found a way to have a chance. Jimmie Johnson has been dominating the sport since he came in, but his run of championships is something that nobody ever thought they would see again. It is a combination of a great driver paired with a great crew chief and a great pit crew. When Rick Hendrick paired Jimmie and Chad Knaus together, he made a team that has become unbeatable on the track. While this is historic and unprecedented, I really have to wonder, is this good for the sport?
Richard Petty was a very dominating force within the sport back in the 70’s and 80’s. Given it was a different era of racing and the competition was very different. In his hay day, there may have been two or three drivers who could compete with him tops. But now, the sport is very different, There are at least twenty quality drivers who could be a threat to win a championship every year. But at the same time, the equipment they race with is so much better and more finely tuned than it was when Petty was ruling the circuit. Johnson’s five titles are not only an amazing feat for the driver, but it is an amazing feat for the entire team.
This season there seemed to be a lot of NASCAR fans who became dis-enchanted with the sport because of Johnson’s recent dominance. It is fun to watch somone make history, but after a while it becomes boring seeing the same person on the podium week after week. While the final race was what decided the championship, a lot of fans probably avoided watching it because nobody wanted to see Johnson win his 5th. The more Johnson keeps winning, the fewer people will sit down and watch the race, and at this point there are a lot of people who will just check the standings on Monday morning instead of watching or attending the race. The sport is by no means going to go broke or will lose it’s huge fan base. But the more Johnson continues to dominate, the more casual fans will go elsewhere for their Sunday viewing. NASCAR needs to shrink the gap between Johnson and other racers, because only the die hard fans will stick with the sport. Even then some of those fans will stop watching.
In the end, NASCAR needs to have more parity much like the other major sports. It is not any fun to look into a season and see the same person favored as the champion. Hopefully by the time speed weeks comes around in February there will be some chance of competition. Otherwise NASCAR will risk losing a large casual fan base and it will fall back into just a small sport with only a die hard following.