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And now on to Championship Number Five? | NASCAR Racing Breaking News: Trackside Live, Every Week, Every Sprint Cup Race - MikeMulhern.net

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And now on to Championship Number Five?


  Jimmie Johnson has been the center of attention through the entire chase...for four straight years now (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
  

   By Mike Mulhern
   mikemulhern.net

   HOMESTEAD, Fla.
   The Jimmie Johnson Dynasty?
   Or is it the Rick Hendrick Dynasty?
   Or maybe really the Chad Knaus Dynasty?
   However you want to ascribe it – to the driver, or to the car owner, or to the crew chief – Sunday night this bunch made history.
   They did what no one in the 60-some years of this sport has ever done – four straight championships.
   With mind-numbing, bone-grinding consistency.
   The pressure of winning Championship No. Four didn't really hit Jimmie Johnson until three weeks ago – when he was abruptly knocked into the wall at Texas and lost a big chunk of points.
   But even that really didn't take the wind out of  his sails. Because ever since Dover back in September this title, which Johnson finally sewed up Sunday night with a hard-fought fifth-place run here, in front a crowd estimated at 70,000, there has been a sense of the inevitable.
    Pressure?  "It really didn't sink in, the pressure, until that crash at Texas," Johnson said.
   "I've been trying to chase this out of my head and what this might mean to me, after the disappointment at Texas. So it is going to take a little while for those things to jump-start in my mind.
    "I really think of how much I love this sport, how much I respect this sport….the greats before, and how they carried this sport on their backs and made it what it is….and then to do something none of them have done, it is unbelievable, man.
    "I grew up on two-wheels in the dirt. I had no clue I was going to end up here racing stock cars and doing something that had never been done before.
    "Four championships in eight years…47 wins. Everything this team has done is truly amazing."
    "But," crew chief Chad Knaus fretted, "I have the distinct feeling that 2010 is just about to kick off."
    The longer future? Becoming perhaps a Ray Evernham – team owner, competing with men like Hendrick?
   "I can't be a crew chief forever, I know that. I can't keep up this pace," Knaus says. "But I truly love what I do.
   "The future? We'll just have to wait and see.
   "Maybe I'll just open a scuba shop in the Caribbean."

    Denny Hamlin won the Ford 400 going away, when Kurt Busch's two-tire gamble during the final round of pit stops with about 75 miles to go didn't pan out.
   But for Hamlin it wasn't the victory that he spent so much time talking about after the race, it was the championship that he didn't have a shot at in these final weeks.
    "With three DNFs….you look at the final point standings (he lost by 317 points), and call a DNF 100 points….and we were right there," Hamlin said.
   "But those guys have been the standard.  They haven't made mistakes. And that's who we ultimately want to beat -- the guys that are a dominating force like them.
    "I think we're showing we have that strength to compete with those guys.  It's just they've done a phenomenal job.
     "Four in a row for them…
      "And I couldn't be happier for him.  There's no more deserving champion.
     "It's been a great year -- To get four wins, and to win on a track that people don't necessarily expect us to win on, is a great deal. Starting this car in back (38th) and coming to the front was a show."
    For J. D. Gibbs, who runs the Hamlin-Mike Ford operation for his father, Joe Gibbs, says the future for the company looks quite good, with Hamlin and teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano all still young and all strong, even rookie Logano, who finished his first Cup season an impressive 20th in the standings.
   "What's encouraging for our future --- just watching Denny's and Mike's leadership…and the way they work together and don't get panicky," Gibbs said. 
    "You forget Denny finished third (in the title chase) in his first year (2006).  It kind of just came naturally. I think the years following Denny would push hard in some areas and tried some things you shouldn't try.
   "Both of those guys work well together; they're quiet, and they're not going to talk a lot about stuff.  They just get it done."
  
  


  Fireworks and champagne for Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus...but only 83 days till the Daytona 500 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
  

Congrats on a successful

Congrats on a successful first year. Your site is the one I check for my NASCAR news and scoop. I have been reading your stuff for years and without a doubt this year has been your best work. Enjoy the off season, BTW how many miles did you drive and how many nights did you spend on the road following the circuit?

thanks....this is the most

thanks....this is the most i've ever done, that's for sure. not easy being a one-man band....so we appreciate the good words...wrote about 890 stories over the season, about 189 videos....about 165 days on the road....miles? gee, i still have to add all that up....every race, the whole season, from daytona's thunderfest in january, right through till homestead.....

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