Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jimmie Johnson wins third straight NASCAR Sprint Cup title

Jimmie Johnson gets ready for a low-key celebration after finishing 15th in the season-ending Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson gets ready for a low-key celebration after finishing 15th in the season-ending Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

HOMESTEAD — Jimmie Johnson raced like he was chasing a legacy instead of checkered flags. And he didn't look like he was ready to stop, not even after reaching the finish line on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Johnson joined Cale Yar­borough as NASCAR drivers to win three consecutive titles, easily holding off race-winner Carl Edwards to capture the Sprint Cup championship by 69 points. And he seemed in a hurry to begin the pursuit for a fourth.

"It's not that we're chasing a number," he said. "We know what we're capable of."

Johnson needed only to finish 36th Sunday to claim the title. Starting 30th, he could have Sunday-driven around the 1.5-mile speedway, avoided trouble and clicked off laps. But Johnson picked through the field with the help of two strategic pit stops, led briefly and finished 15th.

Crew chief Chad Knaus opted to relinquish a top five standing with 13 laps left to "have enough fuel for a burnout" and Johnson drifted his No. 48 Chevrolet through a throng of onlookers and into the championship stage to lift the trophy yet again.

"It just hasn't sunk in yet," Johnson said, adding that the experience of the previous two titles eased his path to the third. So did a stout car and a hefty 141-point lead he had going into the race.

Edwards, who began requesting updates on Johnson from crew chief Bob Osborne by Lap 40, milked a 13-second lead at the end and won a series-best ninth race on a fuel gamble. It was Edwards' third win in the past four weeks and the fifth consecutive at Homestead for Roush Fenway Racing. He led a race-high 157 laps.

Kevin Harvick was second on vapors, 7.548 seconds back, followed by Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer.

Johnson's crossing of the finish line set off a businesslike celebration much more muted than the past two.

"How does it feel to be part of history, boys?" he crowed over the team radio.

That could be an open-ended question. Johnson, 33, seems to be getting stronger, winning this title by the second-largest margin in Chase history. His 40 Cup wins are the most in the series — by a large margin — since his rookie year in 2002 and he's one title away from tying the career total of teammate Jeff Gordon, a 17-year veteran.

Gordon is second only to Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt, who won seven. That is the target, eventually, and Knaus is unapologetic about it.

"Yeah, we want four," Knaus said. "Why not? That's why we're here. The team we got, the resources we got, we can definitely go bid for four in a row. Give me a reason why not."

Edwards, though cordial with Johnson, would relish the chance to disappoint them.

"Jimmie has the chance to make some real history next year," he said. "I would be glad to be the guy to deny him the chance.

"Second place in the championship isn't what we came here for, but Jimmie is a great guy and he deserves to win. I know they'll enjoy this championship, but they knew we were here."

Johnson's championships —he's just the eighth to win three or more — are not merely about quantity. Yarborough won his three straight in an era when a handful of drivers could legitimately expect to contend for championships. The Sprint Cup garage is flush with such teams now, all utilizing squadrons of engineers and rocket-science technology to find the nanometer's worth of information to bring Johnson down.

"I don't think he's gotten the respect he deserves," said team owner Rick Hendrick, who won his eighth title in the past 14 years. "I think this is really serving notice of what he's done.''

Brant James can be reached at (352) 584-0633 or

Jimmie Johnson wins third straight NASCAR Sprint Cup title 11/16/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 17, 2008 7:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Hard Knocks' effect: Jameis Winston jersey sales surging


    Two weeks into the national publicity of HBO's "Hard Knocks," Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's No. 3 jerseys are selling well, as he made the biggest leap in this week's jersey report from Dick's Sporting Goods.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's No. 3 jerseys are selling well. [Getty Images]
  2. Tampa Bay Tech offense gains dimension with addition of RB Treshaun Ward


    TAMPA — The playbook was pretty simple at Tampa Bay Tech. Snap the ball to quarterback Michael Penix and let him throw all over the field.

    Jaquavious Johnson, left, and Treshaun Ward pose for a portrait during practice at Tampa Bay Tech High School in Tampa on Monday, August 21, 2017.
  3. HomeTeam 25: Volleyball rankings for Tampa Bay

    Volleyball Preps

    1. Plant

    Last season: 28-4

    This week: Thursday vs. Bloomingdale

    Plant High outside hitter Camryn Vogler (1) hits the ball over the net past St. Thomas Aquinas outside hitter Kirsten Klos (10) during the Class 8A state volleyball final between Plant High and St. Thomas Aquinas at West Port High School in Ocala, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. St. Thomas beat Plant High 3-0.
  4. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Key roster battles


    Greg Auman looks ahead to tonight's third episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks," and talks about key roster battles that could shift with the Bucs' third preseason game Saturday night against the Browns on our …

    Bucs running back Jacquizz Rodgers (32) is hit by middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (58) while running the ball during training camp. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Rays series preview: Who are the Blue Jays?


    Last week, the Rays faced the Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre, dropping three of four. This week, they'll play three games at Tropicana Field. Here's the information you need to know about Toronto before the action kicks off.

    Third baseman Josh Donaldson hit four home runs in as many games against the Rays last week.