Aftermath, New Hampshire: Jimmie Johnson's Victory Reminds Us We Know Nothing

LOUDON, NH - JUNE 27: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 27, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

So Jimmie Johnson is back (as if he ever left), and now everyone is ready to talk about five straight and chuckle at themselves for ever thinking he was in a slump.

But that's what happens in a sport where winning means so much in terms of public perception. In fact, when it comes to how fans and media view the success of drivers, winning is pretty much everything.

It spawns Golden Horseshoes and New Kyles and unleashes an avalanche of positive press.

Meanwhile, if a guy finishes with a top 10 in every race but doesn't win, somehow we all think he's not a championship contender.

Don't believe me? Let's look back at the races this year and recall a storyline or two that came from the winner of each race:

Daytona (Jamie McMurray) – McMurray wins the Daytona 500 and everyone proclaims this could be a career year for McMurray and that his move to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will pay major dividends.

Fontana (Jimmie Johnson) – Johnson wins thanks to some good fortune, and Kevin Harvick adds fuel to the fire by saying the four-time champ has a golden horseshoe up his butt. Suddenly it's determined Johnson has won four Cup titles because he gets lucky.

Las Vegas (Jimmie Johnson) – Johnson doesn't need luck this time and wins anyway, which leads people to decide he is unstoppable and will probably run away with the rest of the season. McMurray falls to 14th in points and everyone jumps off the bandwagon.

Atlanta (Kurt Busch) – Steve Addington is a genius and gets labeled as the reason behind all of Kyle Busch's success since the crew chief won a race with his new team before his former team did. Also, Carl Edwards is a terrible person for trying to murder Brad Keselowski.

Bristol (Jimmie Johnson) – Johnson is on a roll and Denny Hamlin, the preseason pick to challenge Johnson for the title, is off to a terrible start and can't win because of his injured knee. Meanwhile, Edwards and Keselowski smile and shake hands, proving Edwards is not such a bad guy after all.

Martinsville (Denny Hamlin) – Hamlin wins just before he is scheduled to undergo knee surgery, which means maybe he's not off to such a bad start after all.

Phoenix (Ryan Newman) – Snapping a long winless streak means Newman is back and will probably make the Chase this year.

Texas (Denny Hamlin) – Winning after knee surgery shows Hamlin is a true threat and should be looked at as a championship contender. Johnson, meanwhile, hasn't won in a head-scratching three weeks.

Talladega (Kevin Harvick) – Now that he's won, people can take Harvick's points lead seriously and declare he's for real this season and Richard Childress Racing is back.

Richmond (Kyle Busch) – The "New Kyle Busch" is introduced to the world. Kyle Busch is now mature and finally ready to win a championship.

Darlington (Denny Hamlin) – Winning the Southern 500 means Hamlin is by far the biggest threat to knock off Johnson, who has forgotten how to win and is probably starting to prepare his concession speech.

Dover (Kyle Busch) – Busch continues a stretch of Joe Gibbs Racing victories, which proves JGR is the best organization this season and Hendrick Motorsports is playing catch-up along with everyone else. Addington isn't as much of a genius as we thought.

All-Star Race (Kurt Busch) – It's possible Kurt Busch is now a title contender after beating the best of the best in the All-Star Race. Addington is a genius.

Coke 600 (Kurt Busch) – Kurt Busch is the championship favorite now that he's swept Charlotte. Addington is nominated for a Nobel Prize.

Pocono (Denny Hamlin) – Everyone else is back to chasing Hamlin in the championship picture after his impressive win, including Kurt Busch and the slumping Johnson, who has clearly forgotten how to drive.

Michigan (Denny Hamlin) – This is Joe Gibbs Racing's world, and everyone else just drives in it. And Johnson stinks.

Sonoma (Jimmie Johnson) – Johnson wins on a road course, which means he can now be considered a great driver (the four championships didn't prove that for some reason). Also, he's not in a slump. Oh, and we're not so sure about the Gibbs cars anymore, either.

New Hampshire (Jimmie Johnson) - Jimmie Johnson is unstoppable, Hendrick was never behind the Gibbs teams after all and Johnson is a lock for Cup No. 5.

It's silly, right? The amount of publicity that follows the winner each week somehow tricks us into thinking things are one way, when in reality that may not actually be the case.

Let's be honest: It's not sexy, but the best way to tell which teams are running well is to look at the point standings, because that shows sustained excellence rather than one week's worth.

The week-to-week winners grab our interest and attention, but it ultimately doesn't mean that much.

So on Saturday night, try not to read too much into whoever wins Daytona (Possible headlines: "Dale Jr. is back!" or "Kenseth's win shows crew chief move was the right one!" or "Gordon in position to win fifth Cup before Johnson!").

Any of those things could happen, but ultimately judging the entire season based on one week or even a few weeks has proven to be foolish.

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