Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Former Champ's Take on Jimmie J

Former Sprint Cup champ and current ESPN personality Dale Jarrett answered a couple questions about Jimmie Johnson and his almost certain step into motorsports immortality Sunday.

Jarrett, who will be in the booth for ABC’s live coverage of Homestead, was quick to give Jimmie his due in the talent department. And, I realize I may be in the minority, but I wholeheartedly agree with ol' DJ. Jimmie is the most under-rated and under-appreciated overachiever in the sport (perhaps in sports period). The dude is getting ready to accomplish a feat of which no other driver before him can boast - and instead of cheering him on as he drives into the history books, many fans could care less. More's the pity.

For Jarrett's astute comments, read on:

What does Jimmie Johnson have to do to win the championship?

"I think you have to focus in a number of different ways and break the weekend down. On Friday before qualifying, I want to make my car as fast as possible and see if we can start up front. That allows me to run the race I want to run. Obviously practice on Saturday, making the car fast once again will allow me to run the race that I want to, and I think that’s exactly what Jimmie Johnson is going to do. He’s going to try to lead some laps early if he can do that, get those bonus points, and then he’s just going to settle into a good position. I think what we will see, on the double-file restarts, Jimmie be extremely careful around traffic until things get single-file, and then he can pass cars one at a time; it’s much safer that way. I think we’ll see their normal 13-second pit stops become 13 ½, 14 seconds which will probably lose them a couple of spots in the pits, but they want to make sure they don’t have any problems with loose wheels or anything like that. And then he can run his race, finish somewhere in the top 10, maybe even 15, that’ll bring him another championship home."

What about the level of appreciation that Jimmie Johnson gets from the public?

"From the public it’s a little suspect. I think in the garage area everybody appreciates what Jimmie Johnson the driver has done. I think the public perception of him is that he’s with the best organization in the sport, he has the best race cars, he has the best engines, he has the best crew chief in the business, so therefore why shouldn’t he win? But that’s not exactly the case. I would have to disagree with everyone. Someone has to get in there and make all the right moves, push the buttons, do the things that you need to do on the racetrack. Jimmie Johnson does all of those things. He’s a tremendous talent behind the wheel, has a great head on his shoulders, and that makes for a perfect champion."

Photo info: Dale Jarrett talks to Jimmie Johnson (from Life magazine)

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