2009-11-26 / Sports

Hamlin Wins Finale, Title Goes To Johnson

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Denny Hamlin Denny Hamlin HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s Sprint Cup finale, for his fourth win of the season, but the big news was Jimmie Johnson winning his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

“I promise you that in three or four years we’re going to win the championship,” said Hamlin. “We beat Jimmie Johnson in five of the Chase races, and if we hadn’t had those three DNFs, it might have been a different story.”

“We were right there, but those guys (Johnson) were the standard-bearer. They didn’t make many mistakes. But I think we showed we have that strength, and I can’t wait until next year.”

Jeff Burton finished second, for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish.

“Well, the team is the one that deserves it,” said Burton. “They have worked hard and put forth an incredible effort. I think we were just a little off on that last run, but that’s probably my fault because I wasn’t able to tell Todd (Todd Parrott, crew chief) exactly what we needed. Everybody did their part; I just came up a little short.”

Perhaps the biggest drama of the entire 267-lap race was played out by Tony Stewart and Juan Montoya.

About midway during the race, Tony Stewart passed under Montoya, and as he did so, drifted back up in front of Montoya’s No. 42.

Montoya never slowed, and rammed the rear of Stewart’s No. 14. Less than a lap later, Stewart pulled down into the right side of Montoya, cutting the right front tire on Montoya’s car. Montoya lost control and hit the outside wall.

After repairs were made on Montoya’s car, and he was back on the track, he spun Stewart into the infield grass.

NASCAR blackflagged Montoya and assessed him a two-lap penalty for “over aggressive driving.”

Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, and A. J. Allmendinger were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued to have his problems. This past week he had two flat tires and hit the outside wall once, and wound up 28th.

Final top-10 Sprint Cup points leaders: 1. Johnson-6652, 2. Martin-6511, 3. J. Gordon-6473, 4. Kurt Busch-6446, 5. Hamlin- 6335, 6. Stewart-6309, 7. Biffle- 6292, 8. Montoya-6252, 9. Newman 6175, 10. Kahne-6128, 11. Edwards-6118, 12. Vickers-5929

Jimmie Johnson rewrote NASCAR history this weekend at Homestead. It was a tremendous accomplishment for him to win four consecutive Cup titles.

“To do something in the sport that’s never been done before is so awesome,” said Johnson. “To be up there with the Pettys’, Waltrip, Yarborough, and Jeff Gordon is unbelievable. I don’t know where to start.”

“But the team is what made it great. They did an awesome job. An I think Chad Knaus is one of the smartest and best crew chiefs in NASCAR.

“We couldn’t have done it without all of them. It was a terrific team effort.”

Some of the qualities that make him a positive in NASCAR also work against him. Johnson’s polite demeanor results in complaints by many fans that he’s too bland. As a result, he’s not as popular as he should be and doesn’t get the respect many think he deserves.

Most fans prefer to see a more colorful driver, rough around the edges, competing for the championship. Racing is about emotions, and Johnson with his methodical, sometimes near-perfect driving style, doesn’t evoke the fans’ emotions like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch.

Around two-thirds of the fans I’ve talked with, said they would prefer to see some other driver as champion. Johnson may not bring more people out to the races, but he has always represented NASCAR in a professional manner.

It was team owner Rick Hendrick’s ninth Cup championship. Unfortunately, he was not on hand. He had remained in North Carolina with a niece who was about to undergo a kidney transplant.

Kyle Busch wins race and chamiponship

Kyle Busch held off Carl Edwards, who tried a last-ditch effort to get by Busch on the last lap, to win Saturday’s Nationwide Ford 300 race.

The win was Busch’s ninth of the season and his first NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.

Final top-25 Nationwide leaders: 1. Kyle Busch-5682, 2. C. Edwards 5472, 3. B. Keselowski- 5364, 4. J. Leffler-4540, 5. M. Bliss- 4075, 6. J. Allgaier-4049, 7. S. Wallace 4007, 8. J. Keller-3960, 9. B. Gaughan-3914, 10. M. Annett- 3598, 11. K. Wallace-3569, 12. T. Raines-3548, 13. M. McDowell- 3449, 14. J. Logano-3371, 15. K. Harvick-3248, 16. S. Wimmer- 3177, 17. E. McClure-2962, 18. D. Ragan-2632, 19. D. O’Quinn-2404, 20. B. Vickers-2403, 21. S. Lagasse 2194, 22. M. Kenseth-1992, 23. J. Townley-1989, 24. G. Biffle- 1966, 25. P. Menard-1876

Hornaday claims record fourth ttitle

Ron Hornaday wrapped up the 2009 Camping World Truck Series championship last week and became the first driver to ever win four Truck Series championships,

“Five wins in a row is remarkable, and that’s because of Rick Ren (crew chief) and all the guys and Kevin and DeLana Harvick Racing for letting us build new trucks week in and week out.”

Hornaday’s victory celebration was subdued, because he had been sick for several days.

“It’s just been flu symptoms,” he said. “It all started when I got off the airplane. You know, my mother-in-law’s been sick, and we went to the hospital and seen her. Then we jumped on an airplane. I must have gotten the flu or something. The tickle in the throat, the head ready to blow off. You know the whole deal.”

Kevin Harvick was the race winner. He finished ahead of Matt Crafton, Colin Braun, Timothy Peters and Todd Bodine.

Final top-25 Truck standings: 1. R. Hornaday-3959, 2. M. Crafton-3772, 3. M. Skinner-3602, 4. T. Bodine-3437, 5. C. Braun- 3338, 6. J. Sauter-3331, 7. B. Scott- 3307, 8. T. Peters-3289, 9. D. Starr- 3271, 10. R. Crawford-3161, 11. S. Compton-3124, 12. T. Malsam- 3026, 13. T. Cook-2890, 14. J. Bueschler-2884, 15. T. Bell-2767, 16. J. White-2733, 17. Kyle Busch- 2583, 18. D. Setzer-2483, 19. C. McCumbee-2410, 20. A. Almirola- 2301, 21. N. Benning-2097, 22. R. Carmichael-1978, 23. B. Knupp- 1345, 24. B. Ickler-1340, 25. M. Gosselin-1324

Racing trivia question: Who is the former Cup driver known as “The Skoal Bandit?”

Last week’s question: When did Homestead-Miami Speedway open? Answer. The first race was held Nov. 14, 1999.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net.

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