In the world of professional sports the ultimate goal is to beat all comers for a championship.Ã‚Â The best teams in the world will try to get another chance to repeat the following season.Ã‚Â Few have accomplished more than 3 and fewer still with 4, but winning 5 consecutive championships is a thing of legend no matter what sport you are talking about. In my research I found the Montreal Canadians of 1956-60in the NHL, and the New York Yankees from 1949-1953 in MLB , John Force (15 Consecutive NHRA Drag Championships) in the world of professional sports.Ã‚Â This is the league that Jimmie Johnson now finds himself in.
5 time consecutive NASCAR Champion.Ã‚Â Something no one has ever been able to say before.Ã‚Â Until now.Ã‚Â Jimmie Johnson has become the first driver ever to complete such a monumental task.Ã‚Â As anyone in the racing world will tell you, winning 2 or 3 of these in a lifetime is quite an accomplishment, but winning 5 of them in a row is beyond the biggest of accomplishments.Ã‚Â Throughout the race all of the contenders were shown in the lead at one point or another as they each suffered their own problems and mishaps throughout but it was Chad Knaus’s stoic leadership that held the #48 Lowe’s team together through it all and persevered to recover and grab a second place finish behind Carl Edwards to claim the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
“Jimmie, you are a rock star, my friend,” Chad Knaus radioed to Johnson after he crossed the finished line 1.608 seconds behind Carl Edwards. “You have proven it time and time again. And you damn did it my friend.”
Johnson ended the race with a 39 point lead over Denny Hamlin and 41 points over Kevin Harvick.Ã‚Â However every team had their own problems to overcome during the race.Ã‚Â Before 25 laps had passed Denny Hamlin went spinning off into the grass causing some splitter damage to the right front and cost him some precious aero tuning and down force.Ã‚Â Although the #11 crew worked tirelessly they were unable to get the car completely back to true.Ã‚Â Hamlin was unable to be as aggressive as he wanted to be in order to get to the front of the field.
“I felt like, as soon as we dropped the green, I thought we could win the race,” Hamlin said. “Our car was really fast at the beginning — I mean, just unbelievably fast at the beginning — and I knew we had a car that could contend for a win, and obviously when we got in that incident on the back straightaway, it tore up the front and knocked the toe out, and obviously the car did not drive as well for the rest of the day.
“We just tried to patch it and work on it the best we could, but it just wasn’t the car that it was at the beginning. It’s just part of racing.”
Harvick was baffled by NASCAR’s call that he was too fast entering pit road.Ã‚Â Entering from teh 3rd position he had 2 other cars ahead of him so he could not figure out how he could be too fast entering when he was following guys that were not.
“I don’t think that penalty will ever settle in my stomach,” Harvick said. “When you read me off my pit road times of 49.6 [miles per hour], 49.4, 50.8 and then 49.6 — and there’s only a handful of people that get to see them — I won’t ever settle for that.
“I don’t know how you can be speeding when you’re on the bumper in front of you [and he] is not speeding. So that’s about it.”
Although he drove himself up to a 3rd place finish on the track it simply wasn’t enough points to beat Johnson and Hamlin had closed in enough to regain second place in the points by 2.Ã‚Â Through it all Harvick did not get down on himself or his crew.Ã‚Â He remained hopeful for his chances next year.
“Once you get to the last week, you’re supposed to enjoy that part of it,” Harvick said. “You’ve got a shot and that’s really all you can ask for. … There’s a lot of things in your control but there’s a lot of things out of your control, too, especially with the position that we were in today.
“So you go out and you race as hard as you can and you try to put yourself in position to gain points and do the best you can with that team. I just wasn’t going to get caught up in worrying about where [Denny] or where [Jimmie] was. We needed to go out and win and put ourselves at the front of the pack to try to do that.”
“Last year at this time, we all wanted to put a gun in our mouths,” said Harvick. “We didn’t know what we needed to do to fix it, and we were running better but we didn’t know if that was going to continue into next year.
“We came out of the gate strong. We ran strong all year. And in the end, we came up a little bit short. But from where we were last year to this stepping stone, for us to [have something to] build on is a whole lot better than where we were a year ago.”
“I know what it feels like to run like we did last year. So I’m more excited about looking to be consistent and racing this way. I’m not going to look back. This is going to make us stronger. We have got a good race team that’s going to stick around for a while, and you know, I’m just happy to be a part of it right now.”
Denny Hamlin had arrived in Miami with a 15 point lead in the standings and hopes of stopping Johnson’s run at a 5th consecutive Championship.Ã‚Â However, even though he left Homestead empty handed he also is looking forward to next year while praising his crew for their efforts in this years chase and hopeful for better results in 2011.
“It’s tough, trust me,” Hamlin said, after finishing 14th in Sunday’s Ford 400 while Johnson finished second toÃ‚Â pass him in the Chase standings. “These years don’t come by too often in anyone’s career. I was privileged enough to be part of the closest championship in history and give it my best effort, but it wasn’t enough. Our car got banged up and we couldn’t overcome that.”
His spin early in the race was not the only problem Hamlin had to face on the track.Ã‚Â During a caution Mike Ford told Denny pit too late for Denny to make the turn down pit road forcing Denny to stay out when he needed to come in for tires and fuel.Ã‚Â Then later when the #29 ofÃ‚Â Harvick got together with the #18 of Kyle Busch in an on track incident during green flag pit stops, Hamlin ended up one lap down.Ã‚Â J.D Gibbs, Team President for Jog Gibbs Racing had this to say about the incident.
“I thought [the #18] got wrecked by the 29, so that was very frustrating. That caused Denny to go a lap down. That was disappointing — because you kind of know you aren’t making that back up unless you get some kind of caution.Ã‚Â And we didn’t get it.Ã‚Â That’s part of the deal.Ã‚Â I think we’ll learn from it all and grow, and we’ll move on.”
As for the teams hopes for next year Gibbs had a lot to say.
“Hopefully we learned some stuff this year that we can apply for next year,” he said. “I think it’s going to be the same group of guys. It’s the same team that’s been together for a while now — and I think now they kind of know when to push and when to kind of take what’s given you. I look forward to next year. Unfortunately, it’s going to seem like a real long time before we can get back to here next year.
“I think the encouraging thing is we’ve got a lot to work with here with Denny and Mike and the whole team — when you watched them do what they did all year long. Jimmie Johnson is going to be hard to beat. That’s not going to change next year. You’ve just got to learn to control what you can, and I think our guys will do an even better job of that next year.
“We didn’t make many mistakes this year, but we made a few. Hopefully next year we’ll make even fewer.”
Hamlin’s wishes for next year were a little more direct.Ã‚Â After losing 2 races due to fuel mileage strategy which cost him valuable points in the series.Ã‚Â Knowing what he has to work on personally will also get him further next year.
“It’s going to be fuel for me,” Hamlin said. “I’m just going to try to get better. There are things that I can improve on as a driver. I’ve got to work on qualifying. I’ll study that in the offseason. I’ve got to work on my outright speed on the restarts. Those are things I’ve got to get better at.
“As a team, I’ll debrief with them and tell them the things that I feel like our cars need to be to be better in the future. I can assure you we’re going to hold our heads high because we came close this year. We had a great year. We were just a little short in the end.”