Jimmie Johnson’s Roval Win
Last Sunday brought us one of the most highly anticipated NASCAR races in several years. Between trepidation, excitement and fear no one knew what to expect but fans were certainly looking forward to it. As everyone knows by now, Jimmie Johnson made a daring move in the last chicane in an attempt to score his first Series win in well over a year but fell short.
One of the big topics of discussion in the days since the race was the boldness or foolishness (depending on one's view) of Johnson's move. If he had stayed behind then leader Martin Truex, Jr. and finished second, the seven time champion would've easily advanced to the next round of the playoffs. With his resulting spin, he not only didn't win the race but he was also eliminated from playoff contention. Why would he do that, some have asked? Why would a driver throw away an opportunity to move on? The answer is easy and here it is; Jimmie Johnson is a racer and racers try to win.
As hard as it is to believe when talking about a seven time champion with 83 career wins, many have found it easy to dismiss Johnson's accomplishments over the years. Some say he's not on the level of Dale Earnhardt or Richard Petty because he doesn't have their personality or aura. He's not a "tough guy;" he's never really been in any personal battles that become legendary with time. Many say his wins came because Hendrick was at the top of their game; he made it look easy. He never really had to fight to the last few feet for wins.
I'll be honest, off the top of my head I can't remember a single Johnson win that came from banging fenders with someone between turn four and the checkers. Yes, a lot of his wins did look easy. That happens when you're the dominant driver racing for the dominant team. I assure you Richard Petty won his fair share of snoozers in his day.
Had Johnson stayed behind Truex Sunday, I doubt many would be questioning whether he should've gone for the win. It's also safe to say that wouldn't have surprised us. Fairly or unfairly, Johnson doesn't strike a lot of fans as a risk taker on the track. What has kept fans talking all week though is the fact that he did indeed take that chance. Who cares if it didn't pay off for him? In NASCAR's biggest race in a long time, the most successful driver on the track made the boldest move many have ever seen him make and in the end, everybody won.
Fans certainly won. It's been a long time since there was this much buzz about a move like that for a win. Let's be honest, it feels like it's been a long time since we've even seen an ending as exciting as that one. One popular tweet after the race said it was, "...the kind of racing that used to put butts in seats and hopefully will again.
Jimmie Johnson also won. No, not the race obviously but he won a lot of respect from race fans, many of whom are admittedly not fans of his. Another Sunday tweet said, "Wins mean more when they don't come as frequently as they once did and your opportunities become scarcer with time." The responses were universal in their praise for the 48 driver. Chris Clarke replied, "He went down swingin'. He did what a race car driver should have done, try to win the race!" Mack Bellamy answered with, "I'm not a JJ fan, but he is one of the 4 best in NASCAR history. He went for it, just shows how bad he still wants to win." Waylon Watts seemed to sum up the thought of many with, "Not a JJ fan at all. Never have and never will. But honestly I gained a lot of respect for him today... he went for the win. And that's what real racers do."
Should fans have appreciated his talent more before the Roval? Probably, but in today's world it seems easy to overlook greatness when it's in front of our faces. It often takes the prism of time and a backward glance to appreciate what we've seen. Thanks to his effort on Sunday evening, Jimmie Johnson made a lot of folks remember why we love this sport while also making us remember what greatness looks like when we see it. That was a heck of win.