NORMAN — By Jenna Fryer
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Back on top with only two NASCAR greats left to catch, Jimmie Johnson won his sixth championship in eight years Sunday and staked his claim as one of the most dominant competitors in sports history.
Johnson, needing only to finish 23rd or better to spoil Matt Kenseth’s career season, was on cruise control most of the day at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson had just one hiccup en route to his ninth-place finish, when a stack up on a restart caused Johnson and Kenseth to bang slightly, costing Johnson 15 spots.
Although the incident caused slight damage to the fender on the No. 48 Chevrolet, Johnson only dropped to 23rd in the field. A caution allowed him to head to pit road, where crew chief Chad Knaus methodically barked commands to repair the damage.
Johnson was soon off and running as if nothing had happened.
He claimed the championship by 19 points over Kenseth, now looming squarely in Johnson’s windshield is the mark of seven titles held by Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.
“I have six, and we’ll see if I can get seven,” said Johnson, who has been asked repeatedly of late where he thinks he stands in NASCAR history.
“Time will tell. I think we need to save the argument until I hang up the helmet, then it’s worth the argument. Let’s wait until I hang up the helmet until we really start thinking about this.”
Kenseth, needing a Johnson collapse to have any shot at the title, positioned himself to pounce should anything go awry. He led a race-high 144 laps and finished second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
“It was just unbelievable year for us, obviously we wanted to win the championship as good as we ran all year,” said Kenseth, who won seven races in his first season with JGR.