Champion Johnson lauds his team
|Monday, November 20th 2006, 00:06 GMT|
Jimmie Johnson declared himself 'overwhelmed' to finally clinch the NASCAR Nextel Cup title in today's season finale at Homestead.
Ninth place was sufficient for Johnson to claim the crown as the best-placed of his title rivals - star rookie Denny Hamlin - could not better third.
Johnson had come extremely close to championship success before, finishing second in the points in both 2003 and 2004, and being on course for the same result in 2005 until a tyre failure in the last round.
"We've worked hard the last five years to put this team in this position," said Johnson. "Rick Hendrick has given us all the tools we needed, and Hendrick Motorsports worked their butts off to give us this opportunity.
"The feeling is overwhelming right now. We've all worked so hard and so long for this."
In the early stages of this season's 'Chase for the Championship' it looked like Johnson was drifting out of contention, but he hauled himself into the points lead during the final few rounds, assisted a little by the misfortune of others.
"I felt like it was out of our control to a small degree and we needed some bad luck (for others) to get back into the Chase," Johnson said. "But so much happened from Talladega to now. We went on a tear and other guys had bad luck."
There was one final scare in the race when Johnson struck debris from Kurt Busch's car and sustained front end damage. A pit stop to check the Chevrolet's condition dropped Johnson to 40th place, but also revealed that the radiator had escaped harm and that the car would continue to run competitively.
"We had a great race car so we knew we could keep calm," said Johnson. "Things never go smoothly for us - it was like 'okay, here we go'.
"But we got back out, and I did better chasing people, and just did what I needed to do."
Johnson also made history by becoming the first man to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the series title in the same year.