Winning three consecutive championships in NASCAR is extremely rare. It has only happened once before, until now.
Jimmie Johnson has officially made his place in NASCAR history. Johnson is only the second driver to ever win three consecutive Cup titles in the last 60 years.
Cale Yarborough was able to clinch his titles in 1976, ’77, and ’78 and his trifecta of wins was an honor held for 30 years.
Yarborough’s accomplishments have now been matched by Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team who have proven themselves as an unstoppable force in the Cup series.
This past Sunday in Homestead, Fla., a champion was crowned and the 36 race season of the Sprint Cup Series came to an end. Jimmie Johnson became the 2008 Sprint Cup Series Champion at the completion of the Ford 400.
As Johnson climbed from his championship car he was met by his crew chief Chad Knaus, who now becomes the very first crew chief in NASCAR history to win three consecutive titles.
“What a special year, I am so proud of this team and the fight this team had. I can’t thank Chad Knaus enough, it is total teamwork and dedication", said Johnson.
"That’s what it was all about and I have to commend Carl Edwards and the team effort they put forth,” Johnson stated to ESPN pit-reporter Allen Bestwick.
Sunday was a night that the No. 48 team will never forget. Johnson’s degree of success and talent now sets him apart from the rest of the field.
This team will now share the same page in the NASCAR history books as Cale Yarborough.
”Jimmie’s a fantastic driver and Rick Hendrick is such a great person to work for. My guys do such an incredible job putting their heart and souls into making these race cars run fast,” Knaus told ESPN pit-reporter Dave Burns.
Hendrick Motorsports finishes the 2008 season with a total of 175 wins overall with eight championships, four with Jeff Gordon, one with Terry Labonte, and now three with Jimmie Johnson.
Carl Edwards, the Ford 400 race winner, finished second in the point standings overall, gaining 72 points to Johnson in the final race of the Chase. Another gamble on fuel allowed Edwards to hold off teammate Matt Kenseth for the win making Sunday’s victory his ninth of the season.
Edwards was the winningest driver of the season and made an incredible run for the championship, proving himself a fierce competitor and a force to be reckoned with in ’09.
“Second place isn’t what we came here for, but Jimmie is a great guy and he deserves to win,” Edwards told Burns.
Edwards dominated most of the race leading the most laps and took his Office Depot car to Victory Lane. The final drivers in the top ten point standings following Edwards were as follows: Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch.
These ten drivers will all attend the Sprint Cup Awards Banquet in New York City the first weekend of December. Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed the top ten, placing 12th overall in the standings and finishing 41st in the Ford 400 after his car suffered a broken brake caliper.
While the No. 48 team is in the making of a dynasty, another driver is facing the end of an era. Tony Stewart drove his last race for Joe Gibbs Racing, as he will now focus his attention to Stewart-Haas Racing for the ‘09 season.
Stewart finished ninth overall on Sunday and cracked the top ten in overall point standings.
The 2008 season is in the books, but the anticipation is already mounting for the ‘09 season as Jimmie Johnson will begin his quest for four consecutive championships.
Fans, do not despair, in just a few short months the ’09 season will kick off on Feb. 7 in Daytona for the Budweiser Shootout.