The Norman Transcript

National Sports

November 17, 2013

Johnson wins sixth NASCAR championship

(Continued)

NORMAN —

Kenseth’s effort just wasn’t enough against a Hendrick Motorsports team that wouldn’t be denied for a third consecutive year.

“If Jimmie would have got a flat or something, that would have been all right,” Kenseth lamented. “Never seen anything like this in the sport and probably never will again. ... Maybe he’ll retire.”

Johnson won a record five straight titles from 2006 through 2010, was mathematically eliminated before the 2011 finale, but was back in the title hunt last season. Only he had a tire failure in the penultimate race at Phoenix and then a mechanical failure in the finale to lose the championship to Brad Keselowski.

His two-year drought is over, and his crew was ready for the party on the South Beach.

“You better get a sip of that (water) bottle, it’s the only healthy liquid you’re going to get all night,” Knaus radioed Johnson after he crossed the finish line.

Johnson planned to savor every moment of the celebration and his championship reign.

“This is extremely sweet. I feel like those five years were a blur. And things happen so fast,” Johnson said. “It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it or appreciate it or respect what happened. It just went by so fast it seems like. Now, I’m really going to slow things down here and enjoy it. This is so, so sweet.”

It was just as special for Hamlin, who bounced back from a fractured vertebra earlier this season that sidelined him for over a month. Hamlin hasn’t been the same since, and Sunday’s victory, his first of the year, extended his winning streak to eight seasons.

“Is the year over yet?” a grinning Hamlin asked in Victory Lane. “Man, I wanted to keep that streak alive.”

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