Homestead recap: Johnson wins historic fourth Cup
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 22, 2009) – With an historic fourth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in sight, spotter Earl Barban calmly coached Jimmie Johnson into the final lap at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday night.
“Just need one more lap, my man,” Barban radioed Johnson. “Coming to the checkered flag this time. All clear.
“It’s definitely been a pleasure.”
Johnson kept his emotions in check long enough to cross the finish line fifth in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet and cement his spot in the record book. With his 2009 title, Johnson is the only driver in Sprint Cup history to win four championships in a row. He matched the legendary Cale Yarborough after he won the Cup 2006-2008. Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus also becomes the first in Cup history to four-peat as the champion.
“I don’t know how to begin to thank all you guys,” Johnson belted out over the radio to his team. “Thank you so much. How about some history? I can’t believe this.”
Johnson entered Sunday’s season finale at Homestead with the task of finishing 25th or better to earn the title and hold off teammate Mark Martin—the lone remaining Chase contender with a mathematical shot. Johnson accomplished his mission by starting from the pole position, leading twice for 28 laps and scoring his seventh top-five finish of the Chase.
Martin, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet, lined up fourth for Sunday’s race and spent most of the event jockeying for position inside the top 15. With his 12th-place result, Martin finished the 2009 season second in the championship standings. Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, crossed the stripe sixth and took third place in the standings, which gives Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2-3 sweep. The organization is the first ever to capture the top three final spots in NASCAR’s Chase format.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, started 32nd but battled his way into the top 10 early in Sunday’s race. Handling became an issue, though, after Earnhardt brushed wall early, and he finished 28th.