November 18, 2009
By Larry Van Zandt
Hello again, gang. Long time no see.
The collective bored yawn that will be heard as Jimmie Johnson’s 4th Sprint Cup trophy in a row is awarded to him at Homestead next week will be a round-the-world shot.
Why will there be no excitement, other than from certain media types wetting their pants as they try to outdo each other concerning who will do the most-dramatic and sappy "4th championship in a row!" story, or the Jimmie Johnson fan club? This lack of excitement also being the most-underreported story of the 2009 season?
Because nobody cares about Johnson’s 4th Championship in a row................................................
Hang on, I apologize, as I fell asleep typing that.
What is going to be the most-reported story of the 2009 Sprint Cup season? A simple statistic, Johnson’s 4th championship in a row, is going to be the dominant headline from now until race 35 of the 2010 season. Will he repeat for a 5th? Will history be made yet again?
CIA Stock Photos
Johnson Celebrates Dover Victory
A prediction: As in 2009, nobody will care about Johnson winning the championship for a record 5th time in 2010, either. I do suspect, however, that the number of Sunday daytime sleepers will drastically increase by about the same amount that viewership during NASCAR races decreases during 2010….as more people tune out NASCAR….
Rather than mention why 42 other teams can’t get close to Johnson….and how the most equal sport in the land ain’t so equal….the bulk of the media covering NASCAR will simply gush, ad-nauseum, about how Johnson has won a historic 4th Championship in a row, when Johnson’s victory next week should instead be a clarion call, a deceased Canary in the Coal Mine of sorts, indicating something is horribly amiss within the world of NASCAR racing. I will mention why this is important later on.
The second-most underreported story will be how the #48 team has finally figured out how to mate a supposedly non-computerized NASCAR-series race car with a computer. Seeing Johnson’s almost perfect performances (last week’s accident at Texas Speedway was a hiccup, not a tuning problem) over the last nine chase events makes me consider the possibility that Knaus and company have perfected the ability to have a computer program set the car up for each individual track, without the benefit of having an on-board computer.
I know this is beginning to delve into the realm of the tin-foil-wearing contingent, in addition, most of what I am about to say is mere speculation, but I mention nothing conspiratorial; the #48 team simply has the best of everything and can devote more resources into being able to create a program to duplicate every possible track condition, and set the car up accordingly. You obviously can’t program for crashes or other random events, but nobody is that consistent with a car setup unless you have the assistance of a good-sized, properly-programmed computer.
The reason I mention this?
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time watching Johnson since the beginning of the Chase. He sails around the track, week after week, with very few bobbles. The car looks flawless, if you can consider a 3500-pound, spoiler-equipped barn door ‘flawless’….while everyone else out there looks like they’re driving on an entirely different track. In fact, I think I heard this very tidbit mentioned during the race at Phoenix on Sunday, how it appeared that Johnson was on another track….
I find it rather difficult to believe that nobody, not even Jimmie Johnson’s own teammates have much of anything for Jimmie Johnson whenever he hits clean air. Mark Martin represents the only possible challenge to Johnson’s quest, yet he can’t get the job done on a consistent basis, either, and if anyone can drive, it’s Mark Martin.
CIA Stock Photos
Johnson Celebrates Another Win
But even though Martin has a couple of wins in the Chase, Johnson was always right there.
I’m just finding it difficult to believe that the #48 is that flawless, folks. I’ve been watching various forms of motorsports for over two decades, and the only sort of dominance I can compare it to is the John Force Racing juggernaut over in the NHRA, where John Force himself has won 14 national titles in Funny Car, and now his driver Robert Hight has just won another. I am a fan of John Force, but his winning almost everything for the better part of two decades isn’t the best way to keep interest in the sport, especially if it’s putting other teams out of business due to hardly any sponsor wanting much of anything to do with investing in trying to topple John off of the top of the Nitromethane Funny Car ladder.
There is a reason why I’m bringing this up.
The problem with this sort of year-in, year-out blowing everyone else out of the water business is that it is bad for the sport in general. Nobody but Jimmie Johnson’s fan club and Hendrick Racing themselves wants to see Johnson win again and again; the problem in this case, however, is not the fault of the teams, although they have to share some of the blame.
The issue, with one car dominating, year after year, is that it turns people away from stock car racing, or any other form of racing (unless he’s a jerk, or really flamboyant). I am trying to remain objective here, as I don’t really favor any one driver over another, but it’s now to the point where I’m sick of seeing Johnson’s forced ‘victory’ grin, week after week, and I really don’t give a flying bleep who else wins at this point; I just want to see someone, anyone else win.
I am now about to infuriate the Jimmie Johnson fans, so I’ll remind those of you who bleed #48 blue and silver that my email address is at the bottom of the page.
I am not convinced that Jimmie Johnson is one of the ‘great drivers’.
I see a robot who is given an almost perfect car week in and week out (and to Johnson’s credit, an idiot could screw up a perfect race car, and has done so many times throughout the ages). Not perfect in the sense that it doesn’t have any problems, but perfect in that it isn’t as big of a heap as everything else is out there (remember that the Car of Some Hideous Alternate Tomorrow is an engineering disaster). I think the #48 team, given its prodigious resources/war chest accumulated through 3 championship seasons from sponsors who will pay through the nose to keep a championship team up front, has been able to donate more resources than anyone else to the pursuit of being able to have a computer program determine the setup week in and week out.
And given the almost flawless performances during the 2009 Chase so far, with no other team being even in the same league.I know I am going to get emails from angry NASCAR fans suggesting I am an idiot, that Johnson’s team is simply doing everything ‘right’ so far, other teams have been dominant in the past with similar comments being thrown about it being ‘unfair’, that they are winning so much, blah blah blah….
Please understand that I am agreeing with you, but I think they are doing everything ‘right’ in a rather unfair manner.
In the Car of Tomorrow, NASCAR forced a ‘parity’ chassis design down the throats of the team owners with the reassurances that it would produce closer racing, and that it would reduce costs for the teams since everyone would have the same basic car.
Whoops. Oh, hey, whaddya know, this is a great segway into the “ the ‘Deceased Canary in the Coal Mine” segment….
Either somebody lied, or the ‘Brian’ trust down in Daytona Beach truly has no idea how to run this series. In addition, I think the idiots down there have done so much to eradicate their own history, even though creative crew chief after creative crew chief figured out ways around the rules, it never occurred to them that a certain well-funded team could figure out a way around the Car of Tomorrow, which in theory is supposed to be ‘tamper-proof’.
NASCAR spent money like a drunken sailor to improve ‘anti-cheating technology’ (I don’t really have a better word for it right now), and ratcheted up the rules enforcement to the point where they thought they had eliminated cheating in the ranks.
Here’s a question for you folks: What if a team, a certain, well-funded team (who will remain unnamed, yet I think we all know who we’re talking about…), simply gave up on trying to cheat/explore grey areas to win, freeing up resources in the process, and instead focused that effort on trying to develop a computer program to create reliable, almost perfect setups for races during the Chase?
Didn’t think about that one, did you?
I’m not suggesting that Knaus and company are or were cheating, although they have been caught doing it before, with Knaus spending some quality time at home for a bit of engineering skullduggery a couple of Daytona 500’s ago, what I’m saying is that I think they figured out a way around one of the most setup-sensitive race cars in the history of racing, and until other teams figure out what how they are doing it, get used to seeing Johnson dominating during the Chase.
Provided that you have bulletproof engines, and the best of equipment, with a sanctioning body determined to eradicate cheating, if it gets to the point where it’s no longer profitable to explore the ‘grey area’ of the NASCAR rulebook, why then a man, a smart man (cue in ‘The Road Warrior’ theme music), he will look at how to get around the problem of how to gain, and then maintain an unfair advantage over everyone else…in a different way.
Most of the equipment to pull this off is already being used, and if I am judging this correctly, most of what I am saying is already well known. What I think isn’t well known is that it appears that the #48 has been able to ‘mind-meld’ the equipment and the car together to the point where the computer now has enough data to give optimum setups for key tracks, and while they don’t have to be spot-on, they are at least close enough to where a few minor tweaks before and during the event will keep the car up front. Most teams are now struggling, and don’t have the funds for this sort of engineering feat, but Hendrick Racing does.
Another problem here? Most of this equipment (a multi-million dollar 7-post shaker rig?) should have never been allowed. Limits on what a team can spend should have been set years ago. Both NASCAR and teams in general are at fault for why the costs of operating a team have gotten to the breaking point; NASCAR should have never allowed it to get out of hand, and more than a few teams should have had a bit more foresight in not allowing the technology genie to get out of the bottle, by raising a stink when it first appeared, staying home if need be. If enough teams bow out.
However, when one tries to keep up with the Joneses, something as paltry as the ‘future’ tends to get ignored, in addition to lessons taught by past history.
NASCAR is primarily at fault for the problems facing the sport. What they have done, by thinking they were smarter than everyone else, and refusing to acknowledge their own history of countless crew chiefs spending thousands of hours trying to figure out how to get around the rules, is foist a lackluster, tamper-proof car onto the huddled NASCAR masses, and then arrogantly dared them to try to get around ‘Da’ Rules’.
It never occurred to 'Those Who Dwell In Daytona' that a team would give up trying to cheat, and use the weaknesses of the Car of Tomorrow against them, to show 'Those Who Dwell In Daytona' just how flawed and broken the sociology experiment that the COT represents, is.
It never occurred to these troglodytes that an enterprising (and well-funded) team would develop all of that expensive equipment into a weapon itself, and instead of cheating to get ahead, they would simply go in another direction and improve upon already-existing technology to predict perfect setups.
Ironic, isn’t it? NASCAR focuses on using the latest technology to eradicate cheating, and what they haven’t figured out, is with the latest technology, cheating is soooo 20th Century. The smart guys have figured out that you don’t need to cheat anymore to get ahead; with the temperamental Car of Yesterday’s Tomorrow, you simply have to get your setup just a little bit better than everyone else’s.
Cheating, like NASCAR themselves and their great ‘equality’ racing experiment through the template ‘Car of Tomorrow’, which was hawked as a method to improve the quality of competition throughout the series, with the promise of closer racing, and has failed miserably, they both have become obsolete.
The problem is that NASCAR won’t figure that one out until Johnson wins his 8th or 9th championship in a row and has no one left to race.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.