Feud of the Week: Johnson vs. The Field
It’s really not a good idea to piss off Jimmie Johnson.
Under the best of circumstances, the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is very difficult to beat, but when he’s angry, it’s all-out war on the rest of the field.
In 2009, Johnson got wrecked by Sam Hornish Jr. on the third lap at Texas Motor Speedway during the eighth of 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. When he showed up for the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Johnson said, “There is no emotion. It's all business.” And he promptly went out and won his fourth consecutive championship.
A year later at Texas, Johnson got beat by Denny Hamlin, who took over the points lead in the process. After the race, Hamlin’s-then crew chief Mike Ford, publicly ripped Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports team for swapping pit crews mid-race after a series of bad pit stops.
In the final two races of the season, Hamlin’s team made critical mistakes both times and Johnson came from behind to win his record fifth consecutive championship.
“I think our team and our organization is better than what they have got at Gibbs,” said Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, after the fifth title. “Just the facts. I didn't appreciate the way that they said that we were selfish and inconsiderate to the guys on our team … we were going to win the championship … and we were going to do whatever it took; if that meant no sleep, if that meant changing cars.”
This week, Johnson was ticked off for NASCAR penalizing him for jumping a restart with 19 laps to go in the race a week earlier at Dover. Instead of an almost certain victory, Johnson finished 17th at Dover.
Johnson got his revenge at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, leading 128 of 160 laps and utterly drubbing the field in the Party in the Poconos 400 presented by Walmart. It was Johnson’s third victory of the year and 63rd of his illustrious career.
And, oh by the way, he stretched his points lead again.
The most points a driver can earn in a single race are 48; Johnson now leads second-place Carl Edwards by 51 points, more than one full race. And he’s 103 points — more than two full races — ahead of sixth-place Matt Kenseth.
Did Johnson race angry at Pocono? You bet he did.
“I mean, there was a little lingering for me,” Johnson admitted when asked about Dover. “I wanted to prove a point.”
And that he did, much to the chagrin of 42 other teams.