It’s shaping up to be a handicapper’s headache: 2012 is one of those wide open years where no one driver dominates. It sets the stage for a driver to catch fire a la Tony Stewart in 2011 and sweep in for the vaunted Cup from amidst the cast of seeming thousands.
In reality, there seems to be three kinds of contenders running at the front of the pack. First of all, you have the drivers who have the wins. Stewart shocked the NASCAR Nation by reeling off some early seasons. Brad Keselowski has become 2012’s Kevin Harvick with a nose for the checkered flag. Then, of course, there is the seemingly ever-present Jimmie Johnson. Though not as prolific, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin aren’t far behind, just needing a little more consistency.
Speaking of consistency, there are other front runners who are keeping their names in the championship conversation by being in the mix week after week. The only thing lacking for a Dale Jr. revival is more wins to go with his steady performance. Another junior, Martin Truex that is, is quietly having the best season of his career, and he’s due, you just know it. When it comes to consistency, Matt Kenseth personifies NASCAR consistency as the last driver to win a season’s championship with only one victory on the year. Though he has tended to be streaky throughout his career, Kenseth teammate Greg Biffle is just one point off the lead though he has only one win thus far. In that same regard, you an make an argument for Clint Bowyer, who has shown no drop off since joining Michael Waltrip Racing.
Then there’s one with the total package. Jimmie Johnson has the wins and he has the consistency; his newfound leadership top the standings a testament to the fact he has served notice to the rest of the field. As well as being tied for the series lead in victories, the five-time champion has finished in the top five in half of 2012’s 22 races, and he also leads in top tens.
Now before you label yours truly a J.J. fan boy, keep in mind this observer is not a fan. It’s nothing personal; I’ve never rooted for the Lakers, the Yankees or the 49ers in their heyday either. It’s with a begrudging respect that homage is paid to one of NASCAR’s best ever- complete with a single-mindedly determined crew chief and the most prosperous team in NASCAR.
Fear not detractors, for after all, Johnson is not dominating. His performances at Daytona, Talladega and even Charlotte serve as reminders hat even he falls victim to bad luck, and bobbles it every once in a while.
If anything, after comparatively disappointing season for the 48 team in 2011, they’ve shown their mettle by not allowing themselves to experience a hang over of sorts. Who will win it all? It’s too close to call, with far too much season remaining. All we’re saying here is that when it comes to combining all the ingredients necessary for a championship recipe, Jimmie Johnson and Company lack nothing to be a blue ribbon winner.