- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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Jimmie Johnson won his third straight Cup championship by finishing 15th in the Chase finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He joined Cale Yarborough to become only the second driver in NASCAR history to pull off the three-peat.
Carl Edwards won the race -- his ninth Cup victory of 2008 -- and placed second in the Chase championship.
Tony Stewart completed his final race for Joe Gibbs Racing and Ryan Newman did the same for Penske Racing; Jeff Gordon finished his first season since his rookie year of 1993 without a victory; and Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing officials brace for a long week of meetings to plan how everything will work under their new merger.
Found a place to keep up with the NFL during the race. Apparently, officials in charge of the nice, new flat-screen televisions in the new media center forgot the Jaguars-Tennessee game was on one of three sets over the front entrance. You have to hang at an odd angle over the staircase to get a good view, or get a bad crick in your neck looking up from the ground floor, but at least there's an option.
Jimmie Johnson didn't have the luxury to draw a top pit stall as he's had for most of the Chase, and the tightness of the one Chad Knaus picked became evident during a radio communication on Lap 74.
Johnson told Knaus he was having trouble seeing the pit sign and that it would help if he counted down "three, two, one" as he approached where to turn in.
The Chase started so well for Greg Biffle as he won the first two races at New Hampshire and Dover. Not a lot has happened since, and Sunday's race didn't start well, either.
Biffle was given a pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road during the first green-flag stop. That dropped the driver who had won three of the past four races here a lap down in 41st place.
Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, wasn't concerned.
"Good job," he said. "You're keeping pace with the leaders."
The green flag drops on the final Sprint Cup race of 2008. Matt Kenseth is the first-lap leader.
Rick Hendrick made his usual walk down pit road to talk to his drivers before the race. As usual, he started at the back of the pack and moved forward.
Only this time, it seemed to be in reverse.
His first stop was for Jeff Gordon, who will start 37th, followed by Jimmie Johnson at 30th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 22nd. His last stop was for Casey Mears, who will run his last race for HMS before moving to Richard Childress Racing, at 12th.
Usually, it's the other way around.
Jimmie Johnson got through prerace introductions before most could climb into their seats. He's starting near the back in 30th, an unfamiliar spot for one who has started in the top 10 27 times this season.
A member of Tony Stewart's team had a good idea for how to send the driver off. Put a shock device under his seat, and give him a jolt every so often during the race. Know a few media members who would pay to be a part of that.
Team owner Richard Childress found a good way to avoid answering questions from reporters.
Asked about how the engine program he shares with Dale Earnhardt Inc. would work now that DEI has merged with the Dodge team of Chip Ganassi Racing, Childress pulled out a Sharpie and signed his autograph on the shirt of one of the reporters asking questions.
The reporter was so stunned he couldn't get out another question for a few seconds, more worried about how he would get around the garage the rest of the day with a signature on his shirt.
"Don't worry," Childress said. "I'll buy you a new shirt."
"Thanks Tony For 10 Great Years."
The words stretch from the top to the bottom of the main grandstands, Home Depot's way of telling Tony Stewart that it appreciates what he's done for the company during the past decade.
Stewart will drive his last race Sunday in the No. 20 Home Depot car for Joe Gibbs Racing before becoming the driver/owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Stewart has done his best to downplay the moment, but JGR president J.D. Gibbs said it has been an emotional time for the two-time Sprint Cup champion.
"Way to go, Jimmie!" the crowd outside Johnson's hauler shouted as he did a brief television interview before heading to the drivers' meeting. Johnson seemed relaxed and confident two and a half hours before the green flag.
A power meeting is taking place outside the No. 41 hauler between Max Siegel, Chip Ganassi and other top officials of DEI and Ganassi Racing.
Missing? DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt. Is anyone surprised?
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- The garage is abuzz -- not about Jimmie Johnson's being on the verge of his third straight championship or the unusually cool air after near-record heat on Saturday, but with speculation about all the details surrounding the merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing.
At the center of the buzz is Max Siegel, the president of global operations at DEI. Siegel loves NASCAR and wants to remain a part of the sport. Whether that means he'll stay where he is -- and he has that option -- remains to be.
All Siegel will say is that he is doing all he can to make sure that the transition, which includes the release of more than 100 DEI employees, goes as smoothly as possible.
Sources in the garage say Siegel has other options at other teams and may explore them once the transition is complete. Some in the sport would like to see him as an owner, which he admits is tantalizing.
As for whether the companies will be under the umbrella of Chevrolet (DEI) or Dodge (Ganassi) or who will be the fourth driver, those details will be worked out this week.
Odds are, Chevrolet will win the manufacturer battle. DEI has a solid engine program with Richard Childress Racing, and a member of that program said, "It looks like I'll be working with them soon." "Them" would be the Ganassi side.
The driver could be anybody from Scott Riggs to AJ Allmendinger to Regan Smith. Riggs could have a slight edge because his sponsor may come with him for a few races.
Again, Siegel is mum on what will happen. He did say that the relationship between DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt and Ganassi is a good one and will be good for both companies. Earnhardt is focused on the business side and doesn't spend a lot of time at the track.
Ganassi gives the company a much-needed track presence.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
15hK. Lee Davis