From the Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts to the Bilderberger’s Conference, conspiracy theories have been abundant and ever present to explain away things we can’t quite understand. Not to be left out, NASCAR nation has had its fair share.
Let’s see, we have NASCAR turning a blind eye to pave the way for Richard Petty’s 200th win at Daytona in the presence of President Ronald Reagan. Then there was Darrell Waltrip’s suspicious car that earned him an All-Star victory. More recently, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Nationwide Series victory raised eyebrows as he tooled around in a special ride dedicated to his late father.
Then there’s 5-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who’s earned all his titles in succession. He’s really not THAT good, is he?
More than a few say he has a lot of help. In fact, more than one fan has declared his 2011 quest the “Fix For Six.” NASCAR Chairman Brian France, Johnson’s owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus have formed this unholy alliance to give Jimmie Johnson as many championships as he can get. Let me ask this question….
Why? What does NASCAR gain from having Jimmie Johnson as king of the hill?
Some say Rick Hendrick is lining a nice, soft green interior in a suitcase for Mr. France. Money can certainly buy you a number of things, but what’s the price tag for dominance? It seems here there’s a high risk to gaining cash in this fashion, because the dominance of one driver, especially one of only slightly above popularity, would be counter-productive. If this is the case, it would make more sense to boost the fortunes of the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., also an employee of Hendrick. Tell me, how successful have Hendrick’s efforts to boost Junior work out?
It also takes more cooperation than this to pull off the chicanery. To arrange the dominance of one driver out of a field of nearly 50 requires compliance from race officials, team members and opposing drivers. That’s a lot of mouths to keep shut! Hendrick and France may succeed in buying off a handful of people, but certainly not a truckload of lackeys. Do you think Jeff Gordon would let his aspirations slide for a few extra bucks? I mean, how much money does that guy need? How about the guys who used to drive for Hendrick: Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers or Casey Mears? Oh yeah, that looks like a ripe bunch of patsies.
Let us also not forget it requires cooperation from the media. Remember Watergate? Blowing the lid open on that scandal made the careers of Woodward and Bernstein. Imagine what kind of hay an enterprising journalist could make off of a conspiracy to prop up Jimmie Johnson, or anyone else, as a champion. Why hasn’t this been done? Could it be there’s nothing there?
For money, for fame, for power, somebody eventually squeals. Eventually, the real conspiracies are uncovered. A more radical notion may be that maybe, just maybe, Jimmie Johnson really is that good. Does he have a lot of help? Well, yes- Johnson has an owner with abundant resources, a crew chief with a singular commitment to winning to back his skill. You can chalk it up to his secret formula for the Chase, or whatever you want. You don’t even have to like the guy, but 55 wins and 5 titles are no work of skullduggery.
With a handful of points separating the top drivers, this race for the championship is close, and as competitive as ever. Speaking of competitors, none are more fierce than Richard Childress, Jack Roush or Joe Gibbs. Do you think they would ignore a rat if they smelled one? The foundation of sports is a pursuit of excellence and a test of one’s abilities against other competitors. Such a vast conspiracy to advance the fame and fortune of Jimmie Johnson runs so counter to human nature that while it could conceivably hold up for one or two seasons, but not five, or maybe more. Someone would have cracked by now.
The idea of Jimmie Johnson’s dominance almost seems mythical enough that it would have to be the work of extraneous forces, right? If it’s true, then we have a large, unfortunate mix of the insatiable and the desperate clustered into one nicely fitted package. On the other hand, it may just be that Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and Rick Hendrick are just that good, and just that committed. I'd buy that.
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