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5 in a Row - Jimmie Johnson Captures His 5th NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship
By D. Brian Smith
Photography: Courtesy NASCAR, Post-production - Redline Review

Almost no one has ever dominated any form of racing the way that Jimmie Johnson has. Sure, NASCAR icons Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt each won the championship a record seven times. Yet, each only managed to win two championships in a row.

By finishing in 2nd place in today's season-ending race at Homestead-Miami, Johnson earned the championship and became only the second man in racing history for all forms of road and oval racing to win five championships in a row. This is such a notable achievement that Jimmie Johnson's feat puts him with the greatest athletes of all time in any sport, including professional cycling. Yes, Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France a record seven times in a row, but he wasn't the number one bicycle racer seven seasons in a row. He won the hardest professional cycling tour seven times in a row, but seven months of racing doesn't equate to five years of winning championships.

In all of sport, until Jimmie Johnson's astounding five-peat at Homestead Miami today, only five other sports teams have ever achieved five championships in a row. The NBA Boston Celtics actually performed an eight-peat. Still, this sort of year after year domination is exceedingly rare in amateur and professional sports.

Getting back to automotive racing, the only other racecar driver to win five championships in a row is a German guy you may have heard about. We'll give you a couple clues. His domination occurred in recent history. It was in open cockpit and open wheel racing. You guessed it. Michael Schumacher performed the very same five-peat, yet in very dissimilar racecars to the NASCAR sedans (Formula 1 for Team Ferrari all five years) and within a diametrically opposed sort of racing series to the predominately wide open oval racing action of NASCAR.

The turning point in Jimmie Johnson's season actually came two weeks ago in Texas. When team owner Richard Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus decided to put Jimmie's pit crew over the wall and use teammate Jeff Gordon's pit team in its place for the rest of the Texas race, for the Phoenix contest and for the Homestead Miami competition, all came good for the #48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet and the Hendrick Motorsports Team. Gordon's #24 car was forced out of the Texas contest in a wreck, and Jimmie's pit crew simply wasn't providing the #48 Chevrolet with timely pit stops. Crew Chief Chad Knaus had a difficult decision to make, which was made easier with the notion that the race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship may be on the line. So, Rick Hendrick and Chad Knaus made a bold and dramatic decision. They brought Gordon's pit team off the bench and sidelined Johnson's crew. With the championship on the line, there's no feelings to be hurt just as, "There's no crying in baseball," said by Tom Hanks playing skipper Jimmy Dugan in the movie A League of Their Own.

Jimmie Johnson Captures 5th NASCAR Championship

Johnson finished the Homestead-Miami Ford 400 race in 2nd place, while Carl Edwards solidified his return to the winner's circle, after a 70-month winless draught, with another victory after his Phoenix win last week. Kevin Harvick, in the #29 Chevrolet, drew a speeding penalty coming into the pits that set him back in the standings and in a later pit stop hit an opposing team's pit crew member while exiting the pits. However, he still managed to get back into contention in the race and finally finished the Homestead-Miami Ford 400 a solid 3rd.

Both Harvick and racer Denny Hamlin were naturally disappointed that they couldn't wrest away the championship title from Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports. Denny started the Homestead Miami Ford 400 leading the Sprint Cup Championship race and Johnson by 15 points. He simply needed to stay out of trouble and run a clean race to win the Sprint Cup Championship. Unfortunately, he had a bit of a boisterous run in with Greg Biffle early in the contest that sent him spinning and dented the front of his car. Upon restart Hamlin was in 37th and had to slice and dice his way, only to finish in 14th position by the end of the contest. The #11 Joe Gibbs Racing/FedEx Express Toyota and Denny Hamlin finished the 2010 season in second place, 39 points behind Johnson, while Harvick and his #29 Richard Childress Racing/Shell Pennzoil Chevrolet finished in 3rd position, just 41 points behind Johnson.

NASCAR Sprint Cup fans, race enthusiasts and all Redline Review aficionados in general – let's all give three cheers to Jimmie Johnson, his #48 Chevrolet and his Hendrick Motorsports/Lowe's racing team. On second thought, let's make those five cheers! We can't wait to see what happens next year. Rest assured that Redline Review will be bringing all the NASCAR Sprint Cup series to you, with unparalleled prose and racing action photos. At Redline Review and in NASCAR, It's All About Speed.
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