This was no easy Sunday drive for the most dominant driver of this decade, even though Johnson needed only a 25th-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway to hold off teammate Mark Martin in the race for the Sprint Cup title.
Instead, Johnson raced hard for 400 miles and even threatened to try to run down the leaders to better his eventual fifth-place finish.
"History, boys!" he shouted as he crossed the finish line. "How about some history!"
Johnson gave team owner Rick Hendrick his own record, a 12th NASCAR championship, on a day that saw mighty Hendrick Motorsports take the top three spots in the final standings. Martin wound up with his fifth runner-up finish in the standings, while Jeff Gordon was third.
"I feel really, really blessed to have had a chance," Martin said.
Upon leaving his car in Victory Lane, Johnson thanked the fans, tears sparkling in his eyes.
"Man, it's going to take a while to sink in," he said.
It was a sometimes-testy drive into history for Johnson, who was at times annoyed at rival drivers and even Gordon, the mentor and teammate who helped him land his job with Hendrick Motorsports.
Nobody gave Johnson anything, either. The other drivers raced hard around him all day, making Johnson earn every point in a race won by Denny Hamlin, who established himself as the driver to watch in 2010.