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Johnson with 5th straight NASCAR Sprint Cup title

As Edwards wins Homestead Finale
Sunday, November 21, 2010

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Johnson wins his 5th straight title
Richard Petty never did it.  Dale Earnhardt Sr. never did it, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, none of them did it.  Jimmie Johnson did it.

He came from behind in points going into the season finale to finish 2nd to Carl Edwards at Homestead Miami Speedway on Sunday but it was enough to clinch a record 5th straight NASCAR Sprint Cup title. 

Kevin Harvick finished third on Sunday but for Edwards it was a strong finish to the season with two straight wins.  Of course this race was sponsored by Ford so, as happens all the time in NASCAR, the result sure made the race sponsor Ford happy.

Even happier was Jimmie Johnson when Sprint presented him with the champion's check in the amount $5.7 million.  With his 10th title Rick Hendrick (Hendrick Motorsports) passed Petty Enterprises for the most team championships in the history of NASCAR.

Johnson overcame a succession of flawed pit stops to outrun Kevin Harvick (third) and Denny Hamlin (14th) in the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hamlin entered the race leading the standings by 15 points in front of Johnson, but an early spin scrubbed speed out of the car and left him fighting traffic, not fighting for the championship.

"It was like, 'Who's going to screw up the most?' " said Johnson's team owner, Rick Hendrick, who won his 10th Cup title (five with Johnson, four with Jeff Gordon and one with Terry Labonte).

Edwards, who secured fourth place in the final standings, led 189 of 267 laps in winning his second consecutive Cup race and the 18th of his career.

Johnson finished 39 points ahead of Hamlin and 41 ahead of Harvick, who rallied from a pit road speeding penalty to run third. Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Aric Almirola and A.J. Allmendinger finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

“Why didn’t you set the cars up like this before, Bob?” Edwards joked with crew chief Bob Osborne after the race. “That was the best performance down the straightaway I’ve had in a long time.”

The race for the championship was anything but perfection. And it wasn’t the high drama fans had anticipated from the closest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup since the introduction of NASCAR’s playoff format in 2004.

An early spin on the part of Denny Hamlin, the Chase leader by 15 points entering the final race, ultimately proved decisive. A pit road speeding penalty knocked Kevin Harvick (third in points) to the rear of the field just when he appeared ready to contend for the victory. Hamlin finished 14th; Harvick rallied to finish third.

Sloppy work in the pits on the part of Johnson’s “substitute” crew—borrowed from Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 team in the middle of the eighth Chase race (at Texas) and bound to Johnson thereafter—repeatedly cost the champion track position.

To call the final race a comedy of errors on the part of the title contenders may be harsh, but championship team owner Rick Hendrick did precisely that.

“It was like, ‘Who’s going to screw up the most?’ ” Hendrick said after claiming his 10th Cup title (five with Johnson, four with Gordon and one with Terry Labonte).

In the afterglow of a fifth straight title, however, the flaws in the process didn’t matter.

“Jimmie, you are a rock star, my friend,” Chad Knaus radioed after Johnson crossed the finished line 1.608 seconds behind Edwards. “You have proven it time and time again. And you damn did it today, my friend.”

Johnson finished 39 points ahead of Hamlin and 41 ahead of Harvick.

Before the race was 25 laps old, Hamlin made a tough job much more difficult. His No. 11 Toyota, which had started the race 37th but had gained 18 positions in the first 23 laps, touched the No. 16 Ford of Greg Biffle as the cars sped through Turn 2 on Lap 24. Hamlin spun through the infield grass, damaging the front splitter and knocking the toe angle of the tires out of position.

Though his crew worked feverishly to repair the damage, the incident affected the handling just enough to keep Hamlin from making an aggressive run to the front. His troubles were compounded when he was trapped a lap down during a cycle of pit stops and had to take a wave-around to the tail end of the lead lap. At that point Hamlin was fighting Harvick for second in the final standings, not battling Johnson for the championship.

“I felt like, as soon as we dropped the green, I thought we could win the race,” Hamlin said. “Our car was really fast at the beginning—I mean, just unbelievably fast at the beginning—and I knew we had a car that could contend for a win, and obviously when we got in that incident on the back straightaway, it tore up the front and knocked the toe out, and obviously the car did not drive as well for the rest of the day.

“We just tried to patch it and work on it the best we could, but it just wasn't the car that it was at the beginning. It's just part of racing.”

Johnson restarted second on Lap 251 after Harvick dumped Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s teammate, into the inside frontstretch wall to cause the 10th and final caution on Lap 244. Johnson couldn’t catch Edwards over the final 17 laps, but he pulled away from Harvick to secure the title.

“I’m just beside myself,” Johnson said in Victory Lane. “Four was amazing. Now I have to figure out what the hell to say about winning five of these things, because everybody is going to want to know what it means. I don't know. It is pretty damn awesome — I can tell you that.”

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 2 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 195/10 267 Running
2 6 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 175/5 267 Running
3 28 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 170/5 267 Running
4 24 9 Aric Almirola Ford Budweiser 160/0 267 Running
5 5 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Insignia HDTV / Best Buy 155/0 267 Running
6 1 83 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 155/5 267 Running
7 23 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 146/0 267 Running
8 31 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 147/5 267 Running
9 13 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal 143/5 267 Running
10 27 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 134/0 267 Running
11 25 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 135/5 267 Running
12 17 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 127/0 267 Running
13 18 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Penske Racing 124/0 267 Running
14 37 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 121/0 267 Running
15 4 21 Bill Elliott Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 118/0 267 Running
16 8 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 115/0 267 Running
17 10 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 112/0 267 Running
18 15 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 109/0 267 Running
19 16 98 Paul Menard Ford MasterCraft Doors / Menards 106/0 267 Running
20 9 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 103/0 267 Running
21 3 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 100/0 267 Running
22 32 09 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet C&J Energy 97/0 267 Running
23 41 82 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 94/0 267 Running
24 26 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 91/0 267 Running
25 38 37 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 88/0 267 Running
26 20 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Clorox / Kleenex 85/0 267 Running
27 22 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 82/0 267 Running
28 12 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Stanley 79/0 267 Running
29 35 71 Andy Lally Chevrolet Anderson's Maple Syrup 76/0 267 Running
30 42 7 Kevin Conway * Toyota Extenze 73/0 263 Running
31 14 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 75/5 253 Running
32 33 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 67/0 242 In Pit
33 34 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 64/0 233 In Pit
34 39 34 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 61/0 231 In Pit
35 40 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 58/0 231 In Pit
36 36 38 Dave Blaney Ford A&W All American Food 55/0 203 In Pit
37 11 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 52/0 199 Out of Race
38 7 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 49/0 185 Running
39 19 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 46/0 166 In Pit
40 43 164 Landon Cassill Toyota Empire Steel Buildings 43/0 35 In Pit
41 29 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota HeatRedefined.com / EAA Young Eagles 40/0 29 In Pit
42 21 36 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 42/5 25 In Pit
43 30 66 Mike Bliss Toyota Prism Motorsports 34/0 10 Out of Race


* Denotes Rookie

Hendrick Motorsports 2010 Championship Notes:

10TH TITLE
: Hendrick Motorsports now is NASCAR's all-time leader in NASCAR Sprint Cup owner championships with 10 after Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet team earned their fifth consecutive series title Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports previously was tied with Petty Enterprises, which earned nine Cup owner championships.
THE OTHER GUYS: With its fifth straight championship, Hendrick Motorsports becomes one of just four teams in major American professional sports to have scored five or more titles consecutively. The Boston Celtics posted eight NBA titles in a row starting with the 1958-59 season and ending in 1965-66. Hendrick now is tied with the New York Yankees, which earned five World Series rings from 1949-53, and the Montreal Canadiens, which scored five Stanley Cups from 1956-60.
COMPARISONS: In the major American professional sports leagues, Hendrick Motorsports' 10 total Sprint Cup owner championships are tied for eighth behind the New York Yankees (27 World Series titles), Montreal Canadiens (24 Stanley Cups), Boston Celtics (17 NBA titles), Los Angeles Lakers (16 NBA titles), Toronto Maple Leafs (13 Stanley Cups), Green Bay Packers (12 NFL championships) and Detroit Red Wings (11 Stanley Cups). The St. Louis Cardinals own 10 World Series titles.
ALL-TIME CHAMPIONSHIPS: The 2010 Sprint Cup car owner championship is the 13th for Hendrick Motorsports across NASCAR's three national series, extending the team's all-time record. Richard Childress Racing ranks second among owners with 11 combined titles. In the car owner category, Hendrick has won 10 titles in the Sprint Cup Series and three in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Hendrick Motorsports also has won a NASCAR Nationwide Series driver championship, which came in 2003.
KNAUS SETS THE STANDARD: Chad Knaus is the only crew chief ever to win more than two consecutive Sprint Cup titles (he now has five in a row), and his championship total (also five) ranks him second all-time among crew chiefs in NASCAR history. Only Dale Inman (eight titles) has more.
FIVE-PEAT: Johnson is the first driver in NASCAR history to capture five straight Sprint Cup titles and the first champion in the Chase format to overcome a points deficit going into the final event. Johnson, however, is not the first driver ever to come back and win a championship. Most recently, Alan Kulwicki rallied from 30 points down going in to the 1992 season finale to win it all.
TWO TO GO: With a fifth title, Johnson breaks a tie with teammate Jeff Gordon to become the Sprint Cup championship leader among active drivers and third all-time. Johnson is two titles shy of NASCAR's all-time leaders, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, who scored seven apiece during their Hall of Fame careers.
DRIVE FOR FIVE: Winning five straight championships is a first for Hendrick Motorsports, which previously was the only NASCAR team to have achieved four titles consecutively. In addition to Johnson's 2006-10 run, Hendrick scored four in a row with Gordon (1995, 1997 and 1998) and Terry Labonte (1996). No other team has won more than three Sprint Cup championships in consecutive seasons.
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: Johnson isn't the first driver in motor sports this year to come back from a points deficit and capture the series championship in the season finale. John Force (NHRA Funny Car), Sebastian Vettel (F1) and Dario Franchitti (IndyCar) join Johnson in coming from behind to capture their series championships in the final race of the season. Force trailed first by 37 points going into the Nov. 14 finale, when he rallied to win his 15th Funny Car title. Vettel made up 15 points in F1's season finale on Nov. 14, while Franchitti overcame a 12-point deficit on Oct. 2 to capture the IndyCar championship in the last race of the season.
WINNING PERCENTAGE: Hendrick Motorsports is the most efficient team in major American professional sports, earning 10 titles since its inception in 1984 for a 37.04 all-time title-winning percentage. The Celtics rank second with 17 titles in 65 seasons (26.15 percent), while the Yankees are third with 27 World Series championships in 107 seasons (25.23 percent). Hendrick has won 10 of the last 16 Sprint Cup championships (1995-2010), putting the team's title-winning percentage during that span at 62.5.
SINCE 1984: No other major American professional sports team has earned more championships than Hendrick Motorsports since 1984, the organization's inaugural season. In that time, the Los Angeles Lakers have earned eight championships and the Chicago Bulls have collected six titles. The New York Yankees and Edmonton Oilers have scored five titles apiece.
STILL ROLLING: Hendrick Motorsports never has run a Sprint Cup campaign without winning a pole position (1984-2010). The team scored five this season, including two from Johnson.
APPROACHING 200: Hendrick Motorsports has posted at least one Cup-level win in 25 straight seasons (194 victories from 1986-2010), the longest active streak in NASCAR. The streak began Feb. 16, 1986, when Geoff Bodine won Hendrick's first Daytona 500.
ANOTHER ONE FOR CHEVY: Chevrolet captured its 34th Sprint Cup manufacturers' championship this season after winning 18 races. Johnson led all Chevy drivers with seven victories.
* When referencing "major American professional sports," the following have been factored in: Major League Baseball, NASCAR, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and the National Hockey League.

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