Jimmie Johnson is about to do something only one other driver in the almost-60 year history of NASCAR has managed — win his third straight championship. That he’s effectively mocking his, uh, competition in the process should only underscore the magnitude of the accomplishment.
Under most circumstances, the days leading up to the final race of the season, where Johnson need finish only 36th to clinch the title, would be a celebratory slog, with story upon story chronicling the hows and whys of his epic season. Unfortunately, however, larger realities have come together in a way that seemingly relegates Johnson to an afterthought.
Consider Jayski and its ‘Links’ page, which day after day is connecting users to stories detailing the hardships being confronted by NASCAR: ABC’s decision to cut away from the race at Phoenix; the very real and very unnerving possibility that some of Detroit’s Big Three won’t be in business much longer; the likelihood that many team employees will be out of work within a few weeks … and so on and on and on.
Indeed, when a reporter for the sport’s primary media partner writes a story calling out Brian France, you know things are reaching a boil.
Needless to say, this is not the narrative that NASCAR would like to see being written at this time of year. However, NASCAR makes no secret of its desire to be considered a peer to the likes of Major League Baseball and the NFL, two leagues that have endured their share of hyper-critical coverage. If NASCAR is to truly achieve that goal (and ABC’s action would seem to indicate that it hasn’t yet), it needs to not only embrace such critical coverage, it needs to publicly acknowledge both the merits of it and the steps it intends to take to see the sport through an extremely tough time.
Maybe then, the next time a Jimmie Johnson makes history, we can really appreciate the achievement.