Johnson, Knaus win fifth consecutive title
By Doug Halberstadt
Former Rockford resident Chad Knaus was part of auto racing history this past Sunday, Nov. 21. He, as crew chief, and Jimmie Johnson, as driver, won their fifth-straight NASCAR season championship. Johnson secured the title with a second-place finish in the Ford 400 season finale. Carl Edwards was the winner for the second consecutive week.
Denny Hamlin entered the race with a 15-point edge over Johnson. Johnson became the first driver in the seven-year history of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship to overcome a points deficit in the season finale, and he became only the third driver to overcome a points deficit in the season’s final race and win the championship since 1975.
Hamlin suffered an early spin and had to repair front-end damage to his FedEx Toyota. Hamlin ended up finishing the race 14th, but still came in second in the Sprint Cup championship. The final points showed Hamlin 39 points behind Johnson, while Kevin Harvick finished third and was just 41 points back.
“I’ve always told you the first championship, the first win, that stuff has meant the most to me. This one, I think this takes the lead,” Johnson said. “It’s not that the other Chases weren’t competitive. We were stronger in the previous two Chases, at least, but this one, I am just so proud.”
The fifth title moved Johnson past Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for most titles among active drivers. He now ranks third on the career list behind seven-time champions and Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
“Finally, finally, after being able to pull this off, he’ll (Johnson) get the respect and the rewards that he deserves,” Knaus said.
The championship was a record 10th for Hendrick Motorsports, which broke a tie with Petty Enterprises for most in NASCAR.
Johnson and Knaus will try to make it six in a row when the 2011 NASCAR season begins next February with the 53rd annual running of the Daytona 500. For those of you keeping track, that’s only 87 days away.
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