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Johnson and crew deserved 2nd straight title

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by Pete McCole
November 18, 2007

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2007 title contenders and teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon
GM

HOMESTEAD, FL – Jimmie Johnson successfully defended his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series title on Sunday, finishing seventh behind race winner Matt Kenseth in the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to lock up his second consecutive title over teammate and car co-owner Jeff Gordon.

Johnson was a virtual lock to win the title in the final race of the season, entering the final race in the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup with an 86 point lead over Gordon and needing only to stay out of trouble and 19th or better to clinch the title.

Although Gordon finished three positions ahead in fourth, Johnson still finished 77 points ahead to win the title, becoming the first back-to-back champion since Gordon accomplished the feat in 1997 and ’98.

“I'm so proud of this moment,” said Johnson. “When I think of the year, and coming off the championship last year going through the off season, staying focused on the right things. Working through the year, and just to be fighting for a championship let alone win the second one this year. I was going to be so proud of my guys before the Chase started. Then we got on the tear and won all the races.

“We've had an amazing run. A great time together. Friendships and relationships from inside the 48 team have grown, and the respect we have for one another. It's incredible.”

The final weeks of the Chase for the Nextel Cup became the “Hendrick Invitational” as all but Gordon and Johnson were mathematically eliminated, setting the stage for a final showdown between the duo in the final race of the season.

In the end, it was the protégé getting the better of his mentor.

“We gave them everything we had,” said Gordon. “We couldn't have asked for more out of ourselves to go out there and battle for this championship. We put together one heck of a string of races the entire season and it just wasn't enough.

“He deserves it. He's the best out there. He and his whole team literally are the best out there and they deserved it. There is a reason why they were champions last year and there's a reason why they are champions this year.”

Hendrick Motorsports dominated the 2007 Nextel Cup season, winning 18 of the 36 races including 10 by Johnson alone, a mark not duplicated since Gordon posted 13 victories in 1998.

In fact it was Gordon, who brought Johnson into the Hendrick organization in 2001, who seemed poised to take his fifth series title after running roughshod over the field during the regular season, leading the points standings for 22 of the first 26 races

While Gordon thrashed the field during the regular season, Johnson and his team were the most dominant in the final 10-races, rattling off six top-five finishes - including four straight victories – setting up the final battle for the title between Johnson and Gordon.

Johnson's 10 wins were the difference

RANK

DRIVER

POINTS

BEHIND

STARTS

POLES

WINS

TOP 5

TOP 10

1

Jimmie Johnson

6723

Leader

36

4

10

20

24

2

Jeff Gordon

6646

-77

36

7

6

21

30

3

Clint Bowyer

6377

-346

36

2

1

5

17

4

Matt Kenseth

6298

-425

36

0

2

13

22

5

Kyle Busch

6293

-430

36

0

1

11

20

6

Tony Stewart

6242

-481

36

0

3

11

23

7

Kurt Busch

6231

-492

36

1

2

6

14

8

Jeff Burton

6231

-492

36

0

1

9

18

9

Carl Edwards

6222

-501

36

1

3

11

15

10

Kevin Harvick

6199

-524

36

0

1

4

15

11

Martin Truex Jr.

6164

-559

36

1

1

7

14

12

Denny Hamlin

6143

-580

36

1

1

12

18

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