El Cajon Native Jimmie Johnson Wins NASCAR Title

It's the sixth title in eight years for the local stock car racer

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    El Cajon native Jimmie Johnson celebrates after winning the series championship following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday.

    HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Soaked in sweat, champagne and success, Jimmie Johnson celebrated yet another NASCAR championship by sipping a beer.

    A six-pack would have been more appropriate for the El Cajon native.

    Back on top with only two NASCAR legends left to catch, Johnson won his sixth title in eight years Sunday to stake his claim as one of the most dominant competitors in sports history. Now looming large in Johnson's windshield is the mark of seven titles held by Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.

    The party had barely started on No. 6 when the debate began: Where does Johnson, who on-and-off for two years has used the hashtag `6Pack' on Twitter to describe his bid for this title, rank among NASCAR's greats?

    "I feel like this team is capable of a lot of great things. There's still great years ahead of us," Johnson said. "But all of that is in the future, a seventh, an eighth. I don't want to focus on that yet. It's not time."

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    The time to rank Johnson will be when his driving career is over. But at just 38 and the youngest driver to win six titles, his career could last another decade or more.

    "I have six, and we'll see if I can get seven," Johnson said. "Time will tell. I think we need to save the argument until I hang up the helmet, then it's worth the argument. Let's wait until I hang up the helmet until we really start thinking about this."

    Said crew chief Chad Knaus, who trails only Dale Inman's eight championships in the NASCAR record books: "I don't think we're even close to the potential of the team yet."

    That should be devastating news to the rest of NASCAR.

    There's no telling how many drivers might have won titles had they not competed against Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team. The loser this year was Matt Kenseth, who 10 years removed from his only NASCAR championship had a career year but still came up short.

    "Unfortunately, we're racing during the Jimmie Johnson era," said Denny Hamlin, winner of Sunday's race. Hamlin lost the 2010 title to Johnson.

    "We're just unlucky in that sense. I think being out there and racing with him, I can say he's the best that there ever was."

    Johnson, needing only to finish 23rd or better to spoil Kenseth's dream season, was on cruise control most of the day at Homestead. His lone hiccup came when traffic stacked-up on a restart and he and Kenseth made slight contact, causing Johnson to plunge 15 spots in the field with damage to his fender.

    Yet he still rallied to finish ninth and beat Kenseth for the title by 19 points.

    "He is an amazing talent, there's no doubt about it," Knaus said. "He can do things with a race car that most mortals can't. Let's just be straight with it."

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