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Preparing for yet another siege on Johnson & Company

I vaguely remember a song from my childhood: "There's a kind of hush... all over the world..."

As it turns out, that's Herman's Hermits, circa 1967.

I can't speak to the general hush worldwide, but it's quiet in NASCAR Land.

NASCAR is, of course, a Christian nation, so the shops were in shutdown mode last week.  A few embattled crew chiefs, workaholics that they are, used their key cards to surreptitiously slip in, mainly to ruminate but also to pore over reports, computer simlulations and the like.  Kyle Busch was getting married, the Hornishes were welcoming a new member of the family, and most everyone else was either lounging on beaches in the Caribbean or chopping firewood in North Carolina.  A few were probably skiing in Colorado.  Tony Stewart was racing in Australia.

For those who spend 51 weeks doing everything, it's perfectly acceptable to spend the other doing nothing to do with NASCAR.

Between now and Daytona testing, just a couple weeks away, the ground will thaw and be thoroughly shaken by the vibration of the roaring engines.

Young racers' thoughts turn to championships.  The hunger is great, thanks to Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports' No. 48.  Five straight championships effectiveely eliminate any likelihood of complacency.  Anyone who beats Johnson & Company will do it the old-fashioned way.  (Realizing that most of these young men were in grade school when the old commercial provided the punch line: "They earn it.")

Now that the batteries in NASCAR Land have been recharged, the grim realization becomes: "So much to do, so little time."  Once again, the image is of Johnson & Company, its perfectly prepared, pseudo-Impalas glistening in a row of perfection.  In manpower, precision and expertise, the perennial champions epitomize the sport's industrial strength.

Johnson & Company, left alone while even all the other Hendrick teams were shuffling and finagling, is dotting I's and crossing T's.  Everyone else is still trying to come up with a script.  Johnson & Company is holding dress rehearsals; everyone else is still in tryouts.

When one team sits so firmly at the top, it leaves no one else with security.  Denny Hamlin fell only 39 points shy of Johnson last season.  His team is as antsy and agitated as the teams whose greatest challenge is figuring out a way to make the Daytona 500 field.

Every team works hard.  Johnson& Company works smart.  The champion's plan is more refined.  The pursuers are merely pedaling as fast as they can.

Johson has plenty of opposition.  What he lacks is reliable opposition.  Each of his previous championships has produced a different runner-up.  One of the reasons fans profess their boredom with the status quo is that there isn't even anyone who can be reliably counted upon as a rival.  Johnson doesn't have the equivalent of Alydar, the thoroughbred remembered for giving Affirmed fruitless runs.

It's Matt Kenseth oneyear, Jeff Gordon the next, then Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Hamlin.

NASCAR has a Tom Brady but not a Peyton Manning.


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