Look around and you’ll see a common headline: ‘Jimmie Johnson is back.’ For weeks many questioned whether the #48 team had lost its Midas touch. After all Johnson went (gasp!) 10 races in between wins. In that time he had two DNFs, and three finishes worse than 30th. Jimmie had hit rock bottom. Or had he?
I wrote here a little more than a month ago that the team was struggling, not because of the spoiler as many had suggested, but because of bad luck and mistakes. The truth is the team has run quite well despite a few hiccups here and there.
Since the implementation of the spoiler – and before his latest two wins – Johnson had six top-10s, three top-fives, one pole, and he led a total of 422 laps (in spite of those two DNFs, and three bad finishes). Since Charlotte, where Johnson finished 37th after a series of maladies, he has finished 5th, 6th, 1st, and 1st.
As we move forward through the season there are certainly still questions about Johnson and team #48. Can they shake the bad luck and mistakes for the remainder of the season? Will the new addition to the Johnson family make any difference? And could Jimmie be peaking too early?
Still this season is shaping up a lot like Johnson’s 2007 championship season. Some bad luck, and DNF’s through the mid-point of the season gave way to ten wins, and one of Johnson’s best seasons to date. Six of Johnson’s wins came after Daytona, and four of those wins came during the Chase (four in a row to be exact).
My point with all this is to say Jimmie may have had some bad luck, and certainly made a few mistakes during the first half of this season, but he has never faded from competitiveness. Perhaps an argument could be made that the field is catching up to Johnson – he’s not necessarily having the dominating performances he has had in past years. Competition is strong from a number of teams. Johnson and Denny Hamlin, for instance, will, at this moment, enter the Chase tied for first with their win totals. Certainly, I think this year he’ll face some stiffer competition going into and through the Chase, but don’t count out team #48.
Is Jimmie back? As far as I can tell he never left.