Has Johnson’s dynasty come to an end?

For the past seven seasons, Jimmie Johnson has been the favorite to win the championship (Johnson was a co-favorite with Matt Kenseth at the beginning of the 2006 season), and he was able to bring home the trophy to Hendrick Motorsports in five of those.

Once again, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas have selected Johnson as the favorite to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup this season.

But should Johnson be the favorite again, or has the five-time champion’s dynasty finally come to an end?

Hurdles

To say Johnson will not compete for the championship would be absurd. Johnson -- and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team -- is too good not to be one of the drivers competing for the championship at the end of the 2013 season.

But can Johnson do this year what he has not been able to do the past two seasons: close the deal and win the championship?

When Johnson was winning championships from 2006 to 2010, the one thing he had no problem with was finishing the season strong. The No. 48 team seemed to use the regular season as a testing period to figure out what their car needed during the Chase. When the Chase began, Johnson was nearly unbeatable.

Johnson will have to get back to finishing the season strong if he hopes to get back to winning championships.

The other problem with Johnson has nothing to do with anything he can control. The competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is as good as it has ever been.

There is no doubt that there is still a big gap between the haves and have-nots in the sport of NASCAR. The days of Roush Fenway and Hendrick Motorsports dominating the series are over. Now, Penske Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing are teams Hendrick must compete with for the championship.

Even within the Hendrick team, Johnson has competition. Last season, Johnson’s teammates Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne were running up front in most of the races. Johnson had to deal with trying to beat his teammates while sharing information with them.

A new start?

Has Johnson’s dynasty come to an end? Yes. But do not count him out of starting a new dynasty as soon as this year.
As long as Johnson’s name is the first mentioned when the question “Who will win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship this season?” is asked, he still must be considered a driver who is at the top of his sport.

The introduction of the Generation 6 car this season will make Johnson’s chances of winning the championship even greater. When NASCAR made the switch to the Generation 5 car (The Car of Tomorrow) for the 2007 season, Johnson was the first driver to figure it out. He won three of the first six races that season. Do not be surprised if he does the same this season.

Anything can happen during the NASCAR season, but the one thing fans can count on is that Johnson will be one of the drivers up front at the end of the Chase. Will he win his sixth championship in 2013? I would not put it past him.