Going Four It: Johnson Makes NASCAR History at Homestead-Miami
Denny Hamlin won the Ford 400, ahead of Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick but Jimmie Johnson won his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crown at Homestead-Miami (photo courtesy: Todd Warshaw, Getty Images Sport)
Anytime a team or individual wins multiple sporting titles—especially in consecutive years—conversations begin about sports’ greatest dynasties. And with Jimmie Johnson claiming an unprecedented fourth consecutive title in NASCAR's premier Championship Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway, let the debate begin….
“Nobody has done this, and this puts me up near the [all-time] top,” said Johnson. “Hopefully…we aren’t done yet.”
While never in the illustrious 61-year history of NASCAR have four consecutive titles been claimed by the same driver, it has happened a handful of times in other sports.
It has been 30 years since the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League won four Championships in a row the first time (1976-1979, as well as 1956-1960), while the New York Islanders did it in the ’80s (1980-1983). Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees twice four-peated (1936-1939 and 1949-1953); and the NBA’s Boston Celtics won eight consecutive titles (1959-1966).
…And that’s the list—the only teams in the history of traditional professional sports’ to win four straight titles. You get the picture—it’s not easy.
With a fifth-place finish in the Ford 400 Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the No. 48 team claimed its fourth on the road in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. With his fourth Miami title, Johnson joins Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jeff Gordon as only the fourth—symmetrically enough—driver to win four or more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championships. When it comes to winning when it counts, Johnson is as dominant as the NFL’s Tom Brady, golf’s Tiger Woods or tennis great Pete Sampras.
“Success for four straight championships doesn’t come without the support of an outstanding team,” said Johnson. “I’m very proud of what our team—with the assistance of our technical partners—has been able to accomplish with the No. 48 car.”
Denny Hamlin won the Ford Championship Weekend finale, finishing just ahead of Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick. It was Hamlin’s fourth victory of 2009—there’s that number again—as he led three times en route to his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I tell you, we're going be there I promise you,” said Hamlin. “I promise you the next couple of years we're going to win a Championship. Four in a row for them, and I couldn't be happier for him [Johnson]. There's no more deserving champion than him."
Johnson led a lap early but required only a 25th-place finish to put the Championship beyond the reach of teammate Mark Martin. The fan favorite made progress in the final stint to eventually take 12th, but that was not enough to stop Johnson from stretching his incredible run of success.
"Jimmie is the man," Martin said. "There's so much that that guy does that people don't even know about. He's as dedicated as anyone I've ever seen, maybe more so. There's a reason I call him Superman, you know? What happened today was how it was supposed to.”
The result gave Rick Hendrick’s team a sweep of the Top 3 positions in the Sprint Cup Series Championship—a first in NASCAR history—as Gordon's sixth-place finish kept him ahead of Kurt Busch in the standings. The owner’s title also belongs to Hendrick, giving him a 12th NASCAR Championship that includes nine Sprint Cup Series titles.
In winning four straight Championships, Johnson supplanted the legendary Cale Yarborough, who won three in a row from 1976-1978. So where does he stand on the list of motorsport dynasties?
Richard Petty won 200 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, which included a staggering seven NASCAR Championships—numbers that may never fall in this modern era. Dale Earnhardt Sr. matched “The King’s” seven titles.
Michael Schumacher won seven Formula One Championships. John Force—on hand for the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—tallied 14 National Hot Rod Association Funny Car titles and 126 career wins.
A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears all captured four Indy 500 victories apiece—an impressive achievement—and Mario Andretti won a Formula One title in 1978, the 1969 Indy 500 and the 1967 Daytona 500, an awesome triple-header. But none of those equal four consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championships.
“I’m just blown away by the things that we have been able to accomplish in the last eight years,” said Johnson. “I’m so honored, so happy to have this pay off.”
“If we can keep it rolling or not, we have to be proud of what we have already accomplished,” said Johnson. “We can accomplish many great things.”
And once again in 2010, the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Ford Championship Weekend, Nov. 19-21, 2010.