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CammoTX
05-06-05, 11:20 AM
Points leader Johnson under attack from rival drivers
http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/3594728


DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) - Pleasant and personable since bursting onto the NASCAR scene four seasons ago, Jimmie Johnson suddenly finds his squeaky-clean image under attack from his rivals.


He's been accused of aggressive driving, questionable blocking tactics and was called an "idiot" by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Johnson, the Nextel Cup series points leader, is trying to laugh off his critics.

"Hey, my wife tells me that every morning," Johnson joked Thursday. "In the big scheme of things, if the worst thing I'm called is an idiot, I'm doing all right."

But it's been a rough few weeks for Johnson, who has been battling on and off with Tony Stewart since the season-opening Daytona 500. He was criticized by Jeff Burton after wrecking Burton in Bristol, and many of his rivals have been piling on this week, blaming Johnson for starting a 25-car pileup in Talladega and a second accident that eliminated six contenders.

"If there was one idiot out there it was him," Earnhardt said Tuesday. "To be honest about it, I think Jimmie Johnson caused about all the wrecks out there."

Johnson still has his supporters, who question whether the attack on Johnson has anything to do with how good he's been the past two seasons. Johnson won a series-high eight races last year and fell eight points short of winning the Nextel Cup championship.

He's been on top of the standings the past six weeks, and takes a 130-point lead over Kurt Busch into this weekend's race at Darlington Raceway - where he swept both events last season.

"It has always been clear that whoever the guy is on top of the flagpole, everybody is going for him," said crew chief Robbie Loomis, one of Johnson's teammates at Hendrick Motorsports. "Everybody is trying to get inside that team's head. But I promise you, it is going to take more than reading something in the paper to turn them upside down."

But Johnson was showing a few cracks, unaccustomed to playing the role of bad guy after being so warmly embraced since he entered the Nextel Cup ranks as a popular driver on the verge of stardom.

"It definitely takes its toll on you and makes me think harder about who I am, what I am and the type of driver I am," he said. "I believe in that person ... and I'm not going to let anybody's opinion change what I do or who I am.

"It's tough. As anyone can imagine, being in the center of bad press, it's uncomfortable."

Jamie McMurray, one of Johnson's better friends in the Nextel Cup garage, said he didn't understand why Johnson is suddenly under attack for being aggressive on the track.

"It seemed like when Dale Earnhardt used to be aggressive, there were a lot of cheers in the stands and everybody kind of said 'That's just the way he is,' " McMurray said. "Some people can get away with that more than others and Jimmie is very aggressive."

But Jeremy Mayfield, who overheard McMurray's comments, quickly cautioned that Johnson is no Earnhardt.

"You've got to be careful because if you call it aggressive driving, then Jimmie is going to think he's doing everything right," Mayfield said. "That's not the Dale Earnhardt aggressive style. Earnhardt would just nudge you and put it where it was supposed to be. You didn't see him just wreck everybody all the time or whatever is going on now with Jimmie."

Johnson did block Stewart in the closing laps of the Daytona 500. And he did run up on Burton's bumper in Bristol, causing Burton to crash.

But in fairness to Johnson, he can't solely be blamed for Sunday's melee at Talladega. Yes, his car hit the side of Mike Wallace and the contact sent Wallace into the wall while collecting 24 other cars.

But Wallace would not have been alongside Johnson if he was not being pushed by Earnhardt Jr. at a spot on the race track where NASCAR had asked the drivers not to "bump draft."

"I don't see where any one person is at fault," Johnson said. "It's an unfortunate thing, but it's racing. It's just guys racing two inches apart, 200 miles an hour. Two inches isn't much. Once that's gone, you have a big wreck."

Wacoso
05-06-05, 12:02 PM
They need to quit *****ing and beat him. Lil' E is turning into a bigger whiner than Van Gundy.

gowilde
05-06-05, 12:13 PM
Cammo--I read the article in today's paper. I think that Loomis is right in saying that the other teams are trying to inside Johnson's head.

But it's also true that Johnson blocked Stewart at the Daytona 500 (he admitted to blocking in the postrace interview), wrecked Burton at Bristol, and drove a sh!tty race last weekend at Talladega. He helped cause two big wrecks.

So I think that the criticism's deserved, but I also know that the other teams are playing mind games with him.

CammoTX
05-06-05, 12:34 PM
Does anyone know how the point standings is stacking up right now? Last time I looked Tony Stewart was 11th. He seems to be having a sub-par year thus far. I am not sure how much of it is his fault though. He just seems to be catching some bad breaks.

billytheskink
05-06-05, 07:17 PM
They need to quit *****ing and beat him. Lil' E is turning into a bigger whiner than Van Gundy.

One of the few drivers who favors bump drafting is whining. I find it difficult to sympathize with Dale Jr. always have.

RoyalBlue
05-07-05, 10:19 PM
Imagine that, the god of Nascar whining and finding fault with another driver and calling him an idiot. Especially when Junior himself has been running below expectations so far this season. I think that's all his outburst was, something to deflect attention from his troubles. Johnson may be deserving of a little criticism, but so are half the other drivers out there who have little or no patience in trying to work themselves to the front during a race. And causing wrecks because of it.

They need to just shut the hell up and concentrate on beating Johnson on the track.