It took five years for the competition into finally offer a real challenge to Jimmie Johnson’s reign as the Sprint Cup champion. Who knows how much longer it will take for somebody to actually knock him off.
And how many titles might Johnson have by then?
Johnson has won five straight titles after capturing the 2010 championship with a second-place finish behind Carl Edwards, who won Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnson overcame a 15-point deficit to Denny Hamlin in the final race of the season. Hamlin fell to 14th at Homestead and finished second in the standings, 39 points behind., the other contender going in, ended up third in the race, third in the standings and 41 points back.
The finish was yet another sign of the strength of Johnson, the crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team. They became the third team in the sport’s history — and the first in the Chase for the Sprint Cup — to erase a points deficit to win in the final race of the season. And they captured the title in a year in which they did not dominate week to week.
It was a dogfight to the end, and they still emerged on top.
“I think this year we showed what this team is made of,” Johnson said after climbing out of his car to celebrate the title. “At times we didn’t have the most speed. But we had the most heart.”
Johnson also gave the team owner Rick Hendrick his 10th Cup championship, including four withand one with Terry Labonte. No team has won as many titles.
“I think finally, finally, after being able to pull this off, that he’ll get the rewards and respect that he needs,” Knaus said.
It is hard to argue with the results. Johnson is only the third driver in Nascar history to win as many as five titles in a career. On Sunday, he took one step closer to matching the seven championships captured by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, a total that might have seemed unapproachable before Johnson’s run began in 2006.