NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson wins sixth NASCAR title while Hamlin wins race

Jimmie Johnson’s assault on NASCAR’s immortal list took another step forward as he clinched his sixth Sprint Cup Championship while Denny Hamlin won the race in Homestead Miami Speedway.

Fans vigorously cheered Johnson’s celebration “so thankful that Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick gave me this opportunity in 2002,” he said “so excited to have the ‘Six Pack’ (what he calls his sixth title)” he added.

Johnson who came into the race with a 28-point lead over Kenseth and only had to finish 23rd or best had one tense moment on a late race restart. Johnson finished ninth.

“With 74 laps to go I had contact from behind which put me into the 20 (Kenseth) I thought this was going to be wild,” Johnson who fell back to 24th at the time said. “It made the last 50 laps interesting,” he explained.

Now with six NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships Johnson trails only NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt who each have seven titles. This was also his team, Hendrick Motorsports 11th Sprint Cup Championship the most in the series.

NASCAR Jimmie Johnson Sprint Cup Champion 2013

Jimmie Johnson, 2013 Sprint Cup Champion. (Photo: NASCAR)

As for getting into Earnhardt or Petty category of titles Johnson said “I feel like this team is capable of a lot of great things. There’s still great years out ahead of us. But all of that is in the future, a seventh, an eighth. Richard (Petty) said eight to ten. That’s all ahead of us.

I don’t want to focus on that yet. It’s not time. I want to unplug, enjoy the sixth, let it soak in. We’ll get to Daytona for testing soon enough. I guess by then it’s probably appropriate to ask the question.”

Kenseth, who started from the pole and led the most laps; finished second in the standings 19 points behind Johnson. He handled the disappointment with great grace. “It was an unbelievable year for us” the 2003 Champion said. He led the series with seven wins. “Overall you can’t ask for more.” And he noted that despite finishing second in the points “this is one of the best seasons I’ve had.”

Denny Hamlin’s miserable year missing six races due to a back injury at the beginning of the year at Auto Club Speedway finally had a happy ending. It was his 23rd career win and only of the year. “Horrible year,” he said “and I was going to be counting down the laps keep the streak alive as bad as the year was we can take a little solace. No reason we can’t shoot out the gate in 2014 like we did in 2010 after we won here in 2009. It was his eight straight year with at least one win. “Eight years, it’s amazing… man I wanted to keep the streak alive. It’s heck of way to go out. Hamlin led 72 laps and finished .799 seconds ahead of Kenseth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who led 28 laps, took third place after a tremendous struggle with Kenseth. After suffering an engine failure at the beginning of the Chase he bounced back to finish fifth in the points his second best year overall and best with Hendrick Motorsports. “We have been more competitive I think not as a company, I just think the 88 team has really stepped it up. But each year, like I said, we’ve gotten better.”

Also notable was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was named Rookie of the Year. And it was the Sprint Cup Series race for drivers, Ken Schrader, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton and Mark Martin.

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