Johnson became the first driver to win consecutive championships since Jeff Gordon in 1997 and ’98, wrapping up the title by finishing a trouble-free seventh in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnson said after Miami race: “I think that we have a lot of good years ahead of us and we’ll be fighting for more championships and certainly winning more races as the years go by, and hopefully be a three-time champion in the near future.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick was along for the ride when Gordon ruled the sport, and said it’s clear this is Johnson’s time now. “Jimmie’s just getting better and better, phenomenal,” Hendrick said. “He’s as determined as anybody I’ve ever seen sit down in a racecar. I don’t see anything that’s going to slow Jimmie down. I hope that we can keep it together. We can do some phenomenal things in the future.”
Johnson came into the event with a cushy 86-point lead over Gordon, his friend, mentor and teammate at Hendrick Motorsports. Although Johnson only needed to finish 18th or better, he refused to play it safe and Knaus gave him a pole-winning car.
Johnson led the first lap to earn a quick five-point bonus, then settled in for the 400-mile ride into the record books. At a time when no single team is supposed to dominate, the No. 48 crew did just that in leading Johnson to 10 victories and a stout 5.0 average finish during the Chase.
“It’s an awesome year, but you know what? We wanted to win a championship and we got beat,” said Gordon, who pulled alongside Johnson for a celebratory nudge and pumped his fist in excitement during Johnson’s burnout.
Gordon was also terrific in the Chase, winning twice and averaging a 5.1 finish. But it wasn’t enough against Johnson, his hand-picked teammate who wound up surpassing him as the sport’s dominant driver.
Nextel Cup Series - Official Standings