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AP Photo/Rusty Jarrett
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson was chasing much more than a championship.
He was also chasing NASCAR history.
The most dominant driver of this decade won a record fourth consecutive championship Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he raced hard to finish fifth when 25th place would have gotten the job done.
In doing so, Johnson joined Richard Petty (7), Dale Earnhardt (7) and teammate Jeff Gordon (4) as the only drivers to win more than three titles.
"The cool thing is, we're not done yet," he warned.
All he ever wanted was a chance to race against the very best. Maybe even win a race or two.
Never did he expect to be a champion.
Especially four times over.
"I grew up on two wheels in the dirt," the 34-year-old Californian said. "I had no clue I was going to end up here racing stock cars and doing something that had never been done before. To do something that's never been done in the sport, and love the sport like I do and respect it like I do and the greats -- Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon -- to do something they have never done is so awesome.
"And to win four championships in eight years, what this team has done -- this is unbelievable."
Johnson bulldozed his way into the record books, pouncing when the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship began to pull team owner Rick Hendrick into the record books with him. Johnson's title gave a record 12th overall championship to Hendrick, who was in North Carolina with a niece who was undergoing an emergency liver transplant.
In his absence, Johnson, Mark Martin and Gordon celebrated a 1-2-3 finish in the final points standings, the first time in NASCAR history a team owner has swept the standings with cars he has solely owned the entire season.
"Heavy hearts and prayers with the boss man and the family," Martin said, paying homage to Hendrick. "That sort of takes a little bit of the shine off of it. But congratulations to Hendrick Motorsports, to Jimmie Johnson -- Superman -- and to my team."
Johnson now stands atop NASCAR as a one-man dynasty, much like Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Lance Armstrong in their sports.
Only Johnson hasn't been feted under a blizzard of confetti by himself. His mighty Hendrick team rules NASCAR the way the UCLA Bruins once dominated the hardwood or Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls reigned supreme.
There's seemingly plenty of chances left for Johnson's tag-team with crew chief Chad Knaus to keep Hendrick and the No. 48 in the title hunt for another decade.
Johnson signed a five-year contract extension to drive for Hendrick through 2015, and Knaus has insisted the No. 48 team can keep this pace for the next several years.
Johnson doesn't want to take anything for granted along the way.
"I don't know if we'll win another championship," he said. "I feel in my heart we'll be competitive, but at some point in time, we won't be that team."
Kyle Busch needed only the green flag to drop to win his first NASCAR title. His coronation was never in doubt and neither, really, was the outcome of the Nationwide Series finale.
Busch made it a double dose of celebration for Joe Gibbs Racing, wrapping up the series championship before turning a single lap and capping Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his ninth trip to Victory Lane.
"It's not easy to win in any division in this sport when you're racing against some of the best," Busch said. "It's a big deal."
Busch held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to win the 300-mile race, a fitting ending because the two NASCAR stars finished 1-2 in the final standings.
By the numbers, Busch was sensational in NASCAR's second-tier series.
He led a record 2,698 laps, had a record 11 second-place finishes, and finished 210 points ahead of Edwards.
Busch's championship run helped the cocky 24-year-old star get his swagger back and eased the sting from his failure to qualify for the Chase for the championship in the Sprint Cup Series.
"It says a lot about the people I'm around," Busch said.
Kevin and Delana Harvick were an extremely happy couple Friday night.
Kevin Harvick made a late pass to cap a dominating show to win the season-ending Trucks series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and wife Delana clinched the owners' championship when Ron Hornaday Jr. -- who had already wrapped up his fourth Trucks title -- finished eighth.
"That's the way to put an end to a year, right there!" Kevin Harvick shrieked into the radio as he crossed the line.
Harvick went into the pit after Ryan Sieg went into the wall and brought out a caution flag with seven laps left. Harvick took four tires, exited pit road first and lined up just behind Timothy Peters -- who took a risk by staying out -- for a green-white-checkered finish.
Harvick passed Peters in the very first turn after the restart and cruised to the win.
"I knew the 17 was a sitting duck there with four tires on our truck," Kevin Harvick said. "So, it was a lot of fun."
And then he and Hornaday went side-by-side after the checkered fell, sending thick plumes of white burnout smoke into the air.
The celebration was on.
"To close out the season like this, it's really what we wanted to do," said Harvick, also the winner last week in Phoenix.
For Hornaday, adding the owners' title for Kevin Harvick Inc. made his championship complete.
"To win the owners' title, you've got to do that," Hornaday said. "It's everything. You can't just win the drivers' title, because it takes a whole team."
-- The Associated Press
Sprint Cup Series
Camping World Truck Series
-- Racing Resources