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September 15, 2014

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Can you compare other sports championships to winning the Sprint Cup?

A lot of adjectives and sports comparisons have been used this week to put Jimmie Johnson’s five consecutive Sprint Cup titles into perspective. The most common one I’ve heard lists other sports organizations, like the Boston Celtics and New York Yankees, that have also won five championships in a row. But is this comparing apples to apples or apples to oranges?

The challenge of winning one, let alone five Sprint Cup championships, is a completely different challenge than what’s faced by stick and ball sports. A driver, like any athlete, has to have talent and has to know how to use it. And a racing team, like any sports team, has to perform at a high level of competency to propel its group to the title. But that’s where the comparisons stop because Sprint Cup racing throws one more variable into the mix. A machine. And with that machine comes a whole host of potential pitfalls.

Several other sports aren’t faced with the challenge of having to build, maintain and perfect a machine in order to be competitive. Look at all of the money, time, research and development that go into producing a Sprint Cup car. And even after all of this attention, there’s no guarantee that the machine will perform as intended.

There are thousands of moving parts in a Sprint Cup car and at any time one of those parts can fail, rendering a driver’s efforts pointless. Just think of all the times you’ve seen your favorite driver end up going home because a small valve spring broke and destroyed the engine.

Adding a machine to the mix puts winning a Sprint Cup championship in a league all its own.

I wonder if Denny Hamlin’s crew chief Mike Ford, is regretting entering the mind games theater during the championship battle. I think Ford’s initial comments about the No. 48 team only riled up Johnson and Co. That prompted Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to start playing their own mind games. And judging from the outcome, they were more successful at it.

I’m sure that somewhere someone is already laying down odds on who will contend for the championship next year. I hope we see Kevin Harvick in the Chase battle next season. His personality adds a lot of refreshing color to the final 10 races and that’s a good counterbalance to the often cautious public personalities of drivers like Hamlin and Johnson. He may be sarcastic, mouthy and opinionated, but he does it with a smile and isn’t too concerned what other drivers think of him. He’s definitely comfortable in his own skin.

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