Looking back at the weekend’s motor racing, including Jimmie Johnson’s sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title and Sebastian Vettel’s win victory at the U.S. Grand Prix, five things come to mind:
Johnson raises an extraordinarily high bar even higher. Imagine how daunting Johnson’s the 38-year-old driver’s dominance feels to his peers. In It must be disheartening. Take Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne. They’re among NASCAR’s best and had a shot at this year’s title by making the Chase for the Cup playoff. Yet, how many championships do they have combined? None. The 38-year-old Johnson now has six. Think about that.
Worse yet for Johnson’s rivals in 2014? His crew chief Chad Knaus said, “I don’t think we’re even close to the potential of the team yet.”
The Knaus factor cannot be overstated. With all due respect to Johnson’s driving skills and his steely, mature mind-set mindset behind the wheel, Knaus is a key reason why the No. 48 team has been so dominant.
Intense, brainy, aggressive and exceptionally well- prepared, Knaus (pronounced Ke-nouse) is the one who provides Johnson with both the fast cars and the technical — and at times psychological — support that keeps sending Johnson to Victory Lane.
Case in point:
Remember Johnson’s summer slump? In the four races before the Chase began, Johnson finished 40th, 36th, 28th and 40th. Speculation was widespread that his Hendrick Motorsports team had lost its way.
Talk about short-sighted shortsighted. As soon as the Chase started, Johnson, Knaus & Co. and Co. flipped the switch. Johnson finished in the top- five in four of the first five Chase races, including a win victory at Dover, Del., and all put but quashed the threat from Matt Kenseth with a dominant win victory at Fort Worth Texas.
Vettel makes history on American soil. Having already clinched his fourth consecutive Formula One championship, the 26-year-old Red Bull driver won a record eighth consecutive race with his win victory at the U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas.
It was the second race at COTA since the Texas track opened last year, and the facility said the race drew 113,162 spectators Sunday.
Formula One spent several years away from the United States, undermining its status as a global racing series. Now the U.S. Grand Prix is again finding its way into F1’s the Formula One history books, as it should be.
A few words about IndyCar’s Dario Franchitti. The day after Franchitti suffered serious injuries in his Oct. 6 crash in Houston, we said that perhaps the 40-year-old Scot should stop racing.
That was before doctors came to the same conclusion, prompting Franchitti last week to announce the end of his driving career.
He’s won four IndyCar championships and three Indianapolis 500s, and is firmly in place as one of the best drivers in series history.
Franchitti also is one of racing’s best people, and steps out of the car with a deserved reputation for sportsmanship and integrity in addition to being a fierce competitor.