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NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson: Is He Lucky, Cheating, or Talented?

Jimmie started the 2013 season with a win at Daytona. In November 2013 he won his sixth Sprint Cup championship.

Looking at the stats, his races and his seasons, it’s very arguable that Jimmie is one of the true talents of his generation.

If this is true, then why is he so hated?

Why do fans feel angry when he pulls into the lead?

By all accounts from drivers and others that know him, Jimmie is genuinely a nice guy.

But when he pulls into victory lane, you can hear the groans and see the fans filing out of the stands.

Maybe there is more to the story of his success. What do you think?

Is He Cheating?

There have been many instances where questionable problems arise in pre and post race inspections.

  • August 2013: It took Knauss and the team multiple times to pass pre-race inspection. When Johnson did go out to qualify, he won the pole position. Kyle Busch, who got second spot, suggested that delaying the inspection allowed Johnson to qualify on a better track.
  • July 2013: Johnson failed a post-qualifying inspection in New Hampshire. The front end of his car was found to be too low. Johnson was moved to the back for the race start.
  • February 2012: A C-Post Issue was discovered with Johnson’s car pre-race.
  • October 2011: Crew Chief Knauss overheard telling Johnson to intentionally wreck his car if he wins the race.
  • June 2007: Failed fender inspection pre-race.
  • February 2006: Raised rear window failed post-inspection.
  • March 2005: Johnson’s winning car failed to reach minimum height requirement in post-race inspection.

While illegal modifications are nothing new in Nascar---just check out another famous Johnson, Junior Johnson----the list of modifications that were caught by Nascar casts suspicion over Johnson and his Crew Chief Chad Knauss.

Those who dislike Jimmie wonder what he’s been able to get away with and if cheating is the explanation for why his cars seem to go so fast, pass with relative ease and win championships year after year.

In August of 2009 Johnson took advantage of a loophole called “the lucky dog.”

(Basically, the lucky dog gives the first driver that is one off the lead lap a chance to rejoin the field.)

Johnson was three laps behind after having a power problem and many felt that the lucky laps went too far in allowing him back into contention.

Is He Lucky?

So much of Nascar racing involves luck.

You can do everything right but if the guy in front of you wrecks, he may take you and a good chunk of the field out of contention. Even the most skilled drivers can’t avoid the mistakes of others all the time.

But then there’s a different kind of luck.

Ask Nascar fans and they’ll tell you how many times flags and cautions have favored Jimmie during a race.

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For example, in February 2012, a late caution was called at the Auto Club Speedway when Johnson was already in the pits. This allowed Johnson to get out of the pits early, beating the race leaders and going on to win the race.

Is He Talented?

Jay W. Pennell of All Left Turns argues that “luck wins races, not championships.”

Knauss, the rest of the racing team and Johnson himself contend that part of good racing is taking advantage of lucky moments and turning them into wins, something not all drivers can do.

Knauss contends that “When that opportunity arises, that's when you have to have the team that's capable of reacting,”

Johnson races with skill and determination. Perhaps he leads because he is one of the best. His ability to work his way from back to front, the speed of his pit crew, his driving skills and athletic skills may all combine to give him almost supernatural talent and ability.

Johnson Wins Fourth All-Star Race

Jimmie Johnson cruised to an easy victory in the May 2013 All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Johnson's win surpassed Gordon and Earnhardt's records.

Johnson is also surpassing the beloved Number 3 in other ways as he got his second Daytona win in 2013, more than Earnhardt.

Could Jimmie go on to be recognized as the greatest driver of all time?

Johnson with legend Richard Petty.

Johnson with legend Richard Petty.

The Jimmie Johnson Curse

Love him or hate him, Nascar has a real problem on their hands if Jimmie keeps winning races and championships. While it is great to have generational talent, the predictability of a Johnson victory or top ten finish has made the races, well, boring for many fans.

Fan favorites such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Jeff Gordon come in behind Johnson. His dominance of multiple laps in multiple races does not create excitement or suspense for race fans.

Just as Nascar is trying to expand its fan base and shed its image of a southern white male sport, Johnson’s dominance may be taking some of the thrill away.

And because he has such as good guy image, he’s not even a guy we love to hate like Kyle Busch who plays the part of the arrogant bad guy to the hilt.

Will We Ever Know?

While Johnson certainly has his fans, he has his share of enemies too. Those that hate him look at the past scandals and suspicious cautions and wonder just how lucky one guy can get.

Those that love him point to his talent, skill and all around nice-guy attitude as a reason to love and embrace him.

It's all speculation at this point. We may never know the real story.

Chad Knauss Telling Jimmie To Wreck His Car If He Wins

Jimmie Johnson--Is he lucky, a cheater or talented? Weigh in with your opinion!

Unforgiven3 on June 01, 2014:

Take away Chad knaus and see how good he does. He'd be just like Jeff Gordon!

L C David (author) from Florida on November 19, 2013:


I think your comment about not wanting to go to races and the fact that the JJ dynasty has taken the fun out races is spot on. This seems to be the sentiment of many fans. I think that no matter what Johnson just stirs controversy and there seem to be just enough scandals and alterations of the race car in his past to make people suspicious. It really is frustrating. I wonder how the NASCAR officials feel about it and if they have linked Johnson's dominance to slumping ticket sales. We thought about going to Homestead ourselves but opted against it because I just didn't find myself caring that much.

DWB on November 19, 2013:

And if you all want to know if I think him and chad are cheating HELL YES they are...

DWB on November 19, 2013:

Well I don't even like watching or going to the races anymore he has taken the fun out of it I can't stand watching the same guy win over and over again why would I . Yes the late dale earnhart and king Richard won 7 cups but it took them a career to win those and Jimmie can win 6 in just a 7 year stretch sorry people I just don't see it just saying

b mc on November 18, 2013:

no driver wins 6 out out of eight without cheeting.

TA on July 28, 2013:

He is a known cheater

Imp on July 10, 2013:

Cheat wins again

L C David (author) from Florida on July 07, 2013:

Yes we were there at the race. Everyone was just silent around us when he won.

Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on July 07, 2013:

He did it again at Daytona yesterday, another win and a pile up at the finish line. Voted up.

L C David (author) from Florida on June 12, 2013:

Actually, many of the great drivers were accused of cheating and it turns out the sometimes those accusations were right but we didn't find out until years later. Jury is still out but I know he has many loyal fans.

48 FAN on June 12, 2013:

I don't recall any of the other great drivers of the past being called cheaters I think Johnson is a very talented race car driver and people are just angry because their favorite driver looses to Johnson

L C David (author) from Florida on May 21, 2013:

Thanks! Corrected the year.

Anonymous on May 20, 2013:

He won his fifth in 2010, did not win it 2011 as it was Stewart who won it by virtue of tie breaker over Edwards and in 2012, the championship went to Keselowski.

L C David (author) from Florida on April 10, 2013:

I don't know. The problems that Johnson has had with race inspection issues does make things suspicious.

What is more interesting to me than whether or not he cheats is just why he doesn't seem to inspire the thrill for fans that other drivers do. You can find plenty of die-hard fans for other drivers and Johnson does have some. But he also has plenty of people who are indifferent or bored.

Maybe racing just doesn't seem like a challenge to him and that makes it less interesting for everybody?

Mike Roush from Newark, DE on March 08, 2013:

Hard to imagine that someone could "cheat to win" for five consecutive championships and a decade spent in title contention. Jimmie may not be the most exciting driver on the track (and his carefully constructed corporate persona doesn't help either) but right now he's simply the best. Luck helps- but what you do with those breaks determines whether you're a race winner by horseshoe or a champion. Jimmie's the latter.

Steve Clark from Northern, VA on March 05, 2013:

"If you ain't cheatin', you ain't trying!" Everyone in NASCAR, and every other Spec series, cheats, but not everyone gets caught. Cheating simply means not following the rulebook to the letter or in spirit. Not everyone does that.

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