Paulk: Jimmie Johnson still heavy Sprint Cup favorite
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Ordinarily I'm one to pull for the underdog. Rarely will you catch me betting on a heavy favorite at either the horse track or racetrack.
Sometimes, however, I'm conflicted when it comes to pulling for the underdog and appreciating the greatness of superior athletes. Arguably no one has been as dominant as Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and Jimmie Johnson. But no one has captivated our admiration and scorn more than Johnson, a five-time Sprint Cup champion who is positioned to win a sixth title this season.
Whether you love or hate the man who is likely to eclipse the record seven Cup titles of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, it's clear Johnson is far and away the lead pony in a field loaded with thoroughbreds.
For all NASCAR officials' talk about parity the past several years, Johnson has reminded us he has no equal. He has a 31-point lead over Carl Edwards in the points standing, a margin that would have been greater had he not jumped the gun on the restart at Dover or blown a tire at Michigan International Speedway last Sunday.
Johnson already has three wins in 15 races this season. Despite the slip-up at Michigan, the No. 48 Chevrolet looked unbeatable for much of the day.
Johnson's performance this season is reflective, too, of how the heavily funded teams — Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing — continue to distance themselves from those running in the middle of the pack.
While parity exists within the IndyCar Series, nothing could be further from the truth on the Sprint Cup circuit. The big-money teams have won 14 of 15 races to leave cash-strapped teams fighting uphill.
I'm all for balance in the NFL and NBA. It's good that small-market teams such as Oklahoma City and San Antonio can reach the finals against the powerful Miami Heat.
Yet when it comes to racing, Johnson's dominance appears good for the sport. I find his dominance more appealing than parity.
If there's a place where the competitive gap has narrowed some, it is the road course in Sonoma, Calif. Almost anyone can win there Sunday, including road specialist Marcos Ambrose.
“If you look down the sheet of people who can win, there are at least 20 drivers,” Ambrose said prior to Friday's qualifying. “It could be 30-odd drivers who have a chance to win.”
A year ago, Clint Bowyer captured the checkered flag ahead of Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers and Johnson. Ambrose, winner of the past two road races at Watkins Glen, finished eighth.
“I think the level of competition continues to get stronger in NASCAR,” Ambrose said. “There's more money in the sport and more at stake, so everyone is putting a lot of effort in, and the level of driver on road courses is as high as anywhere I've seen, so there's no gimme.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- PennDOT puts 14 Alle-Kiski Valley bridges on list to be replaced
- Freeport dock bid exceeds resources
- Harrison OKs antenna zoning change
- Steelers to bring LB Harrison out of retirement
- Steelers defense must replace three injured starters after victory
- Flag holders stolen off veterans’ graves in Lower Burrell cemetery
- Apollo-Ridge middle school library project gains STEAM
- Cloverleaf bridge work to resume after change
- Liriano, McCutchen help Pirates to 1-0 win over Braves
- Red Wings beat Penguins, 2-1, in preseason opener
- Penguins boast several good blueliners with point-producing skills