Jimmie and Evie, moments before the start of Sunday's championship run (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Mike Mulhern
Okay, six now.
Seven next year?
And eight -- a record -- before he hangs it up?
Why not. It's almost impossible to beat Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus....unless they beat themselves. And Johnson and Knaus rarely make those kind of mistakes.
Six NASCAR championships now over the past eight years.
And next season he plans to run the Boston Marathon just to prove another point....
"You have to have 10 great weeks to win the championship," Johnson says. "Last year we had eight, and didn't win it. This year Matt Kenseth had nine."
And Johnson had 10: fifth at Chicago, fourth at Loudon, first at Dover, sixth at Kansas, fourth at Charlotte, 13th at Talladega, fifth at Martinsville, first at Texas, third at Phoenix, ninth here.
Beautiful weather at Homestead-Miami (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Kenseth gave it his all. But came up short, by 19 points, after 10 months and the 10 playoff races.
But, nope, no regrets from Kenseth. No second thoughts about the one that got away:
"No, I won't have one of those moments. In the past I probably did that a lot, probably a little too much. Not really this time. I really will walk away from this year feeling like we all gave it everything there was to give.
"There's no way you're going to race for nine months and not make mistakes, not do something wrong. That's just the nature of the beast.
"When you look at our season overall, we didn't come up with the championship, but from a competitive standpoint it's been by far the best season of my career. We lead the most laps, qualified the best, probably best average finish, most wins.
"The final 10 I didn't get more points than Jimmie. We still ran good the final 10; we didn't have any huge disasters. We just didn't run good enough to beat him."
Matt Kenseth on pit road Sunday (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
One of the few eventful moments in this race came on a restart, when Jeff Gordon spun his tires and Kenseth jammed on the brakes to avoid him, and Johnson came out of it with a bruised left-front fender, and a scare.
"I didn't even know we had contact on the restart," Kenseth said. "It was the weirdest thing. He was just falling backwards so fast. And Kyle (Busch) was on me, pushing.
"I was seeing where he was going to go. I was going toward him, slowing up, then he all of a sudden snapped sideways. I got off the gas not to wreck.
"I got hit in the right rear. If it was Jimmie, I have no idea. I didn't know where he was."
Johnson's view: "I had contact from behind that pushed me up into the 20 and both of us were out of control and sliding toward the outside fence at that point. So, I didn't know what to think. They got us mired back in traffic and made the last 50 laps kind of interesting.
"We were both out of control, and I thought, 'Man this is going to be wild. The 20 and 48 are going to wreck on the front stretch!' We all got it straightened up but lost a lot of track position. With the damage and the position loss, I couldn't cut through traffic as quick as I wanted to. But we were able to get back up into the top-10."
Jason Ratcliff, Matt Kenseth's crew chief, had a brilliant season....but Johnson and Chad Knaus were nearly perfect in the playoffs (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Knaus didn't panic.
"We went from sixth to 27th pretty quickly," Knaus said. "But I knew our car was plenty good enough to drive back up there.
"I wish we could have raced for it. I knew we had a car that could have potentially ran up front and maybe win the race.
"But, hey, we'll take what we got. We got a good trophy."
Gordon wasn't very happy about the whole incident.
"I was trying to get some momentum (on the restart), and Denny Hamlin checked up, and it just messed the whole thing up and I got wheel spin," Gordon said.
"That is the second time this year (Atlanta too) I have done that right in front of Matt... and he has run right into the back of me and about wrecked us both.
"The last thing I would want to do in front of Matt is that. But you can't run into the guy.
"It was a bad unfortunate situation, and it just trickles on back from there. It could have been even worse."
Denny Hamlin came on strong down the stretch and pulled away to win over Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)