Johnson accomplishes the unthinkable
AP Photo/Rusty Jarrett
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson was chasing much more than a championship.
He was also chasing NASCAR history.
The most dominant driver of this decade won a record fourth consecutive championship Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he raced hard to finish fifth when 25th place would have gotten the job done.
"The cool thing is, we're not done yet," he warned.
All he ever wanted was a chance to race against the very best. Maybe even win a race or two.
Never did he expect to be a champion.
Especially four times over.
"I grew up on two wheels in the dirt," the 34-year-old Californian said. "I had no clue I was going to end up here racing stock cars and doing something that had never been done before. To do something that's never been done in the sport, and love the sport like I do and respect it like I do and the greats -- Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon -- to do something they have never done is so awesome.
"And to win four championships in eight years, what this team has done -- this is unbelievable."
Johnson bulldozed his way into the record books, pouncing when the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship began to pull team owner Rick Hendrick into the record books with him. Johnson's title gave a record 12th overall championship to Hendrick, who was in North Carolina with a niece who was undergoing an emergency liver transplant.
In his absence, Johnson, Mark Martin and Gordon celebrated a 1-2-3 finish in the final points standings, the first time in NASCAR history a team owner has swept the standings with cars he has solely owned the entire season.
"Heavy hearts and prayers with the boss man and the family," Martin said, paying homage to Hendrick. "That sort of takes a little bit of the shine off of it. But congratulations to Hendrick Motorsports, to Jimmie Johnson -- Superman -- and to my team."
Johnson now stands atop NASCAR as a one-man dynasty, much like Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Lance Armstrong in their sports.
Only Johnson hasn't been feted under a blizzard of confetti by himself. His mighty Hendrick team rules NASCAR the way the UCLA Bruins once dominated the hardwood or Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls reigned supreme.
There's seemingly plenty of chances left for Johnson's tag-team with crew chief Chad Knaus to keep Hendrick and the No. 48 in the title hunt for another decade.
Johnson signed a five-year contract extension to drive for Hendrick through 2015, and Knaus has insisted the No. 48 team can keep this pace for the next several years.
Johnson doesn't want to take anything for granted along the way.
"I don't know if we'll win another championship," he said. "I feel in my heart we'll be competitive, but at some point in time, we won't be that team."
Nationwide Series: Busch puts bow on series championship
Kyle Busch needed only the green flag to drop to win his first NASCAR title. His coronation was never in doubt and neither, really, was the outcome of the Nationwide Series finale.
Busch made it a double dose of celebration for Joe Gibbs Racing, wrapping up the series championship before turning a single lap and capping Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his ninth trip to Victory Lane.
"It's not easy to win in any division in this sport when you're racing against some of the best," Busch said. "It's a big deal."
Busch held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to win the 300-mile race, a fitting ending because the two NASCAR stars finished 1-2 in the final standings.
By the numbers, Busch was sensational in NASCAR's second-tier series.
He led a record 2,698 laps, had a record 11 second-place finishes, and finished 210 points ahead of Edwards.
Busch's championship run helped the cocky 24-year-old star get his swagger back and eased the sting from his failure to qualify for the Chase for the championship in the Sprint Cup Series.
"It says a lot about the people I'm around," Busch said.
Camping World Truck Series: Double the fun for Kevin Harvick Inc.
Kevin and Delana Harvick were an extremely happy couple Friday night.
Kevin Harvick made a late pass to cap a dominating show to win the season-ending Trucks series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and wife Delana clinched the owners' championship when Ron Hornaday Jr. -- who had already wrapped up his fourth Trucks title -- finished eighth.
"That's the way to put an end to a year, right there!" Kevin Harvick shrieked into the radio as he crossed the line.
Harvick went into the pit after Ryan Sieg went into the wall and brought out a caution flag with seven laps left. Harvick took four tires, exited pit road first and lined up just behind Timothy Peters -- who took a risk by staying out -- for a green-white-checkered finish.
Harvick passed Peters in the very first turn after the restart and cruised to the win.
"I knew the 17 was a sitting duck there with four tires on our truck," Kevin Harvick said. "So, it was a lot of fun."
And then he and Hornaday went side-by-side after the checkered fell, sending thick plumes of white burnout smoke into the air.
The celebration was on.
"To close out the season like this, it's really what we wanted to do," said Harvick, also the winner last week in Phoenix.
For Hornaday, adding the owners' title for Kevin Harvick Inc. made his championship complete.
"To win the owners' title, you've got to do that," Hornaday said. "It's everything. You can't just win the drivers' title, because it takes a whole team."
-- The Associated Press
Racing Resources Says
Sprint Cup Series
- Denny Hamlin won the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was his eighth victory in his 151st career Cup start and his first win at Homestead.
- Hamlin led three times for 71 laps, including the final 45. It was the fifth time in 2009 that he has led the most laps in a race. He won four of those.
- It was the first Cup win by Toyota at Homestead, ending a five-race streak of victories by Ford. It was Joe Gibbs Racing's fourth win at the South Florida track.
- There were 14 different race winners in 2009, led by four-time champion Jimmie Johnson with seven.
- Johnson finished fifth, scoring his fourth straight top-15 finish at Homestead.
- Johnson notched four victories and nine top-10 finishes in the 10 Chase races. He led in 29 of the 36 races this season, the only driver to do so. He led all drivers with 60 bonus points earned in the 2009 Chase.
- Hendrick Motorsports scored its 12th NASCAR owner's championship, the most of all time.
- On Lap 240, Kyle Busch (eighth) had raced enough miles in 2009 -- all three series combined -- to have driven around the world at the equator. The circumference of the Earth at the equator is 24,901.55 miles.
- Mark Martin (12th) finished second in points for the fifth time ('90, '94, '98, '02, '09).
- Johnson's 141-point final margin over runner-up Martin is the largest in Chase history. The previous was when Johnson beat Jeff Gordon by 77 points in 2007.
- Jeff Burton (second) tied his best finish in 2009, set a week earlier at Phoenix. Burton scored top-10 finishes in last four races.
- Kevin Harvick (third) posted his seventh top-10 finish in nine races at Homestead.
- Kurt Busch (fourth) posted top-10 finishes in the last three races. Busch led in nine of the 10 Chase races in 2009, the only driver to do so.
- Kyle Busch won the Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch won the 2009 Nationwide Series championship just by starting the race.
- Busch broke eight series records in 2009.
- This is the first Nationwide driver championship for Joe Gibbs Racing, which won its second owners' championship (2008).
- Busch scored his 30th career series victory in his 173rd start. He is fourth all time on the career wins list, one behind third-place Jack Ingram. It was his ninth victory of 2009.
- Busch led 73 of the 200 laps, including the final 36. He led the most laps for the 17th time in 2009.
- Busch scored 5,682 points, the most earned by a driver in a single season in series history.
- It marked the second time the champion has won the final race of the season, joining Sam Ard (1983).
- Busch has finished first or second in 35 of the last 65 races, since the start of 2008.
- Carl Edwards (second) scored his fourth straight top-10 finish at Homestead, the longest current streak.
- Jeff Burton (third) posted his fifth top-10 finish in seven races at Homestead.
- Joey Logano (fourth) posted his first top-10 finish at Homestead.
- Denny Hamlin (fifth) posted his third top-10 finish in five races at Homestead.
- Brad Keselowski (12th) rebounded from a Lap 34 spin; he was running 35th on Lap 35. He ended a 16-race streak of top-10 finishes.
- The 20 lead changes set a record for the most in a Nationwide race at Homestead.
- Brendan Gaughan (11th) was the highest-finishing rookie contender.
- Mike Bliss (16th) remained fifth in points (only the top five are on stage at the year-end banquet).
Camping World Truck Series
- Kevin Harvick won the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick won three times in six series starts in 2009. It was his sixth career series win in 101 starts. He is tied for 17th all time in wins.
- Harvick led four times for 108 laps, including the final two.
- It was Kevin Harvick Inc.'s 26th series win overall and ninth victory in 2009. It was the team's first win at Homestead.
- Matt Crafton finished second for the fifth time in 2009.
- Colin Braun finished third, moving from seventh to fifth in points.
- Ron Hornaday Jr. finished eighth in his KHI entry, a week after clinching the series championship at Phoenix.
- Johnny Sauter finished ninth and ended up sixth in the standings.
- The top 10 consisted of one Ford, four Chevrolets and five Toyotas.
-- Racing Resources