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Johnson earns fifth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup title

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2010) –  Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team extended their record-setting championship run on Sunday by finishing second at Homestead-Miami Speedway and picking up their fifth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet finished 16th, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, took 27th. Jeff Gordon suffered a late-race engine issue in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet and was scored 37th.

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. Hendrick Motorsports now is NASCAR’s all-time leader in NASCAR Sprint Cup owner championships with 10 after 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.

Hendrick Motorsports also 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.

Winning a fifth straight title wasn’t easy for Johnson, who entered Sunday’s race chasing then-points leader Denny Hamlin. Although Johnson lined up sixth on Sunday, 31 spots better than Hamlin, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup remained tight. Hamlin struggled to advance through the field, while Johnson assumed the points lead and held steady within the top 10, leading Lap 71 to pick up five bonus points. 

The trio of Chase contenders—Johnson, Hamlin and Kevin Harvick—experienced continual shakeups during the final 100 laps of competition, mostly based upon their performance on pit road. A lengthy pit stop cost Johnson position on a Lap 167 caution, while Harvick was penalized 20 laps later for being too fast entering pit road. The biggest change happened with 25 laps to go when Hamlin was caught one lap down by the caution flag. Hamlin took the wave-around, but Johnson capitalized. Johnson continued to stretch out his lead, taking over the second position, as the laps ticked down. He crossed the finish line second to match his best result at the 1.5-mile oval and to pick up his fifth straight championship.

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