Sunday, November 21, 2010

Edwards Win Ford 400, Johnson Wins Fifth Straight Championship

Sporting News Wire Service

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- NASCAR has a rock star -- and perhaps after a fifth consecutive championship for unsinkable Jimmie Johnson, the sport will realize it.

Johnson ran second to Carl Edwards in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to secure the first come-from-behind title in his skein of five championships.

Edwards' victory was perfection. He led 190 of 267 laps in winning his second consecutive Cup Series race and the 18th of his career.

"Why didn't you set the cars up like this before, Bob?" Edwards joked with crew chief Bob Osborne after the race. "That was the best performance down the straightaway I've had in a long time."

The race for the championship was anything but perfection. And it wasn't the high drama fans had anticipated from the closest Chase since the introduction of NASCAR's playoff format in 2004.

An early spin on the part of Denny Hamlin, the Chase leader by 15 points entering the final race, ultimately proved decisive. A pit-road speeding penalty knocked Kevin Harvick (third in points) to the rear of the field just when he appeared ready to contend for the victory. Hamlin finished 14th; Harvick rallied to finish third.

Sloppy work in the pits on the part of Johnson's substitute crew -- borrowed from Jeff Gordon's No. 24 team in the middle of the eighth Chase race (at Texas) and bound to Johnson thereafter -- repeatedly cost the champion track position.

To call the final race a comedy of errors on the part of the title contenders may be harsh, but championship team owner Rick Hendrick did precisely that.

"It was like, 'Who's going to screw up the most?' " Hendrick said after claiming his 10th Cup title (five with Johnson, four with Gordon and one with Terry Labonte).

In the afterglow of a fifth consecutive title, however, the flaws in the process didn't matter.

"Jimmie, you are a rock star, my friend," Chad Knaus radioed after Johnson crossed the finished line 1.608 seconds behind Edwards. "You have proven it time and time again. And you damn did it [Sunday], my friend."

Johnson finished 39 points ahead of Hamlin and 41 ahead of Harvick.

Before the race was 25 laps old, Hamlin made a tough job much more difficult. His No. 11 Toyota, which had started the race 37th but had gained 18 positions in the first 23 laps, touched the No. 16 Ford of Greg Biffle as the cars sped through Turn 2 on Lap 24. Hamlin spun through the infield grass, damaging the front splitter and knocking the toe angle of the tires out of position.

Though his crew worked feverishly to repair the damage, the incident affected the handling just enough to keep Hamlin from making an aggressive run to the front. His troubles were compounded when he was trapped a lap down during a cycle of pit stops and had to take a wave-around to the tail end of the lead lap. At that point Hamlin was fighting Harvick for second in the final standings, not battling Johnson for the championship.

"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."

Johnson restarted second on Lap 251 after Harvick dumped Kyle Busch, Hamlin's teammate, into the inside frontstretch wall to cause the 10th and final caution on Lap 244. Johnson couldn't catch Edwards over the final 17 laps, but he pulled away from Harvick to secure the title.

"I'm just beside myself," Johnson said in Victory Lane. "Four was amazing. Now I have to figure out what the hell to say about winning five of these things, because everybody is going to want to know what it means. I don't know. It is pretty damn awesome -- I can tell you that."

Race Notes
• This is Carl Edwards' 18th Cup Series victory in his 229th start.
• This is Carl Edwards' second win in 2010. He won last week at Phoenix ending a 70-race winless streak that dated to Homestead (Nov. '08).
• Carl Edwards won back-to-back races for the fifth time in his career.
• This is Carl Edwards' second win at Homestead. He joins Tony Stewart (2) and Greg Biffle (3) as the only multiple race winners at Homestead.
• This is Roush Fenway Racing's 120th Cup Series win, ranking fourth all-time and the team's fourth in 2010 (Greg Biffle -- 2, Carl Edwards -- 2).
• This is Roush Fenway Racing's seventh win at Homestead, including six of the past seven.
• Jimmie Johnson (second) is the 2010 Sprint Cup Series champion. He finished the season with two poles, six wins, 17 top-five finishes and 23 top-10 finishes.
• Kevin Harvick (third) rebounded from a speeding on pit road penalty. He finished the season with three wins, 16 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes.
• Aric Almirola (fourth) scored a career best finish -- his previous best finish was eighth at Bristol in March 2008.
• A.J. Allmendinger (fifth) finished the season with two top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes.
• Kasey Kahne (sixth) finished the season with four poles (tied with Jamie McMurray for the most of all drivers), seven top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes.

Championship Notes
• This is Jimmie Johnson's fifth conseuctive Cup Series championship in his ninth full time season.
• Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to win five consecutive Cup Series championships in the 62 Cup Series seasons.
• Jimmie Johnson becomes the third driver to win five or more championships: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt each have seven.
• Jimmie Johnson finished the season with nine consecutive top-10 finishes.
• Jimmie Johnson won his fifth championship in his ninth full-time season. Richard Petty won his fifth in his 16th season, Dale Earnhardt in his 13th season.
• Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top five in all of his nine Cup seasons (first, five times; second, two times; and fifth, two times).
• Jimmie Johnson won his fifth Cup championship in 327 starts. It took Dale Earnhardt 390 starts and Richard Petty 655.

Ford 400 Results

Article Links on the Ford 400
Harvick had enough of Busch "The Clown", so......

Angry Logano Intentionally Wrecks Montoya....

Edwards Dominates Homestead to Close Out the Season....

Hamlin Doomed at Homestead After Early Spin....

Hamlin Reflect on Title That Almost Was.......

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