Jimmie Johnson NASCAR 2007 Champion

GGW Laurie

Dormant Account
Jun 16, 2006
In the Beautiful South !!
FOXSports.com, Updated 9 hours ago

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - The wind was out of the NASCAR sail long before the Nextel Cup Series came to Homestead-Miami Speedway or Jimmie Johnson was crowned the 2007 champion.

Ford 400 Highlights
Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag at the Ford 400, but Jimmie Johnson wins the Nextel Cup for a second straight year.

Crewmen joked throughout the weekend that the Chase for the Nextel Cup should be renamed the Hendrick Motorsports Invitational. The champion inevitably would be the No. 24 or the No. 48 a clone of the No. 24. Two nice guys going for a title, with no mudslinging, controversy or drama.
Welcome to the Generic 400.

In the season finale, only a catastrophic failure or accident would knock Jimmie Johnson out of contention. Jeff Gordon had conceded the title at Phoenix last weekend along with the rest of the garage.

After Johnson led the first lap, it was time to flip the channel and find the Dolphins game. Alas, press box managers don't trust the media with the remote, so it was time to settle in and wait for a race to break out while Johnson's name was being engraved on the 2007 Nextel Cup.

Ryan Newman assumed the lead for two circuits after Johnson added five points to his 86-point advantage over Jeff Gordon. By Lap 4, Matt Kenseth who at least added a bit of excitement and competition in the second half of the Chase with an average finish of fifth in the final five races assumed the lead for the first time and dominated with a total of 214 laps at the point before winning the Ford 400.

The Chase Is On

Without Kenseth, the 2008 Chase would have simply been the Jimmie and Jeff Show. The Ford 400 was no different. While the Nos. 48 and 24 lined up 18th and 19th, respectively, following the first caution when Kyle Busch collided with Dale Earnhardt Jr. entering pit road on Lap 52, the Hendrick duo recovered well before the next pit cycle and maintained a top 10 presence throughout the race.

By Lap 80, Gordon worked his way back up to third with a two-tire stop, but as the sun set his car developed a tight condition and he was never able to challenge for the lead, finishing fourth best on the day.

Johnson counted down the laps. Although the No. 48 became quite racy with Martin Truex Jr. with four laps to go in an attempt to battle for sixth, Johnson quickly thought better of the decision and settled for seventh.

Where was the pop? Where was the excitement? Where was the story that will have folks clamoring around the water cooler Monday morning?

At least Gordon had the stones to admit he raced Johnson too conservatively. We've heard time and again about how the teammates share everything but toe-to-toe, I'm not ready to concede that J.J.'s the better driver, even though Rick Hendrick declared this time to be "the Johnson era."

But with a Chase that puts more emphasis on wins and less emphasis on points racing, Gordon's two wins and average finish of 5.1 in the post-season still wasn't enough against Johnson's four triumphs and a slightly better finishing average of 5.0.

"I've always known it's possible for somebody to be aggressive like Jimmie and Chad, win races like they did," Gordon said. "You've got to push the limits to lead the laps and win the races like that. I think that what makes those guys so good is that they're able to push the limit and not make mistakes, because the harder you push, the more risk you take, the more chances you take of making mistakes.

"What they did this year is incredible. I'll be honest with you, I'll take a 5.1 average for the rest of my career in the Chase. I'm pretty sure that will win a few championships."

Despite Gordon's solid season, Johnson's 10 wins were phenomenal. No driver has scored double digits victories since Gordon (13) in 1998.

"We just put together one heck of a total year," Gordon said. "You know what I mean? On one side, you know I love the Chase, I love what it's all about and the entertainment aspect of it, and I know it's the best thing for the sport. But when I look at our whole year, it's a little tough.

"I'm a competitor. You know, I'm very happy for Jimmie and those guys, but I really wanted it for our team. I felt like they deserved it. They worked hard and did a great job this year. We came up a little short."

Under the old points system prior to the Chase Gordon would have been celebrating his sixth championship Sunday. With the Chase and the 2007 tweak that put more weight on wins Johnson stepped up. He scored four consecutive wins, joining the feat Gordon accomplished in 1998, but in the overall scheme of racing the season will not be one that goes down in the annals as anything close to tantalizing.

This, plain and simple, was a Hendrick Motorsports butt-kicking, and it's time for the competition to get to work.

Maybe when the Sprint Cup Series converts entirely to the Car of Tomorrow next season and Goodyear comes up with a tire combination that will allow drivers to race side-by-side again, maybe then we can experience the anticipation that used to send chills up our spines.

If not, 2008 will be just another very long season.

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