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Daytona mishap not derailing Johnson
Today was a big deal for Hendrick Motorsports — and particularly Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 team — as it appealed its Daytona penalty. And while Hendrick lost this appeal, but plans to take the next step and put the case before the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer, the team has to get past this and move on.
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The team has to continue to move forward and cannot dwell in the past.
On the plus side of things, despite being wrecked out on only the second lap of the Daytona 500, that No. 48 bunch has put together two consecutive good races in Phoenix and Las Vegas.
I think that is very impressive and shows they haven't let what happened at Daytona both on and off the track affect them. They realize the big picture. Our regular season is really long. There are still 23 races to go to qualify for the 2012 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. That's a long time, even if the team does lose the final appeal and lose its crew chief and car chief for the next six races.
Was it the bad Speedweeks that has contributed to the No. 48 being so strong these last two weeks? I really don't think so. As I mentioned during the offseason, there is nothing more motivating to the year's previous champion and his team, than to hear all the accolades being placed on the new champion.
When you've been royalty for the last five years and then are brought back to earth and lose a championship, it motivates you. Look, Jimmie Johnson knew that his incredible run was going to end eventually. That's why he was so gracious in defeat. Well that and it's also the mark of the true champion that Jimmie is.
That said, I also know how much of a competitor Jimmie Johnson is. We all know what kind of a competitor crew chief Chad Knaus is. You don't like losing once you have reached the top. I can speak to this from first-hand experience. From 1981 to 1985, we were the champions three of those five years. Despite all the success and glory of '81, '82 and 1985, the agony of losing the championship in 1983 and 1984 still haunts us.
That's no different for Jimmie Johnson and his team. Simply put, it is painful. They don't want to hear about how great of a 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Tony Stewart had. They don't care that he won an incredible five out of the last 10 races of the season, tied Carl Edwards in the season-ending points and won the championship on a tie-breaker. They don't want to hear all that.
My point is that despite what happens with the appeal process, this is just a bump in the No. 48's 2012 road back to the championship. They fully intend to be a factor again this year and fight right up to the very end, if necessary, to bring the championship back home.
Even if on final appeal the penalty is upheld, or even reduced to a certain extent, the No. 48 team is fine. That's the beauty of being with an organization the size of Hendrick Motorsports. They are very deep in resources and have very good people waiting to step up and carry the ball.
If the final appeal goes against them and they lose their crew chief and car chief for any length of time, expect to see the No. 48 team change somewhat from a purely offensive team to one that is playing defense for a few weeks until its starters are back. Whoever steps up to take over will clearly understand their role is to not lose a bunch of points over the window of the penalty.
Now sure, if you can help Jimmie go win, then have at it because winning is great, but don't do something to try to make yourself a hero. That can backfire and cost the team a bunch of points. Again, we have a very long season, so the team can rally back as long as the hole isn't dug any deeper during the suspension.
Personally, I think it is an uphill battle for the No. 48 in this appeal process. It is going to take a lot of explaining on the part of Hendrick Motorsports to convince someone to overturn the penalty.