Jimmie Johnson Captures 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Championship; Claims 20th Modern Era Driver Title for Chevrolet Denny Hamlin Crowned 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year with Third Place Finish at Homestead; Finishes Third in Final Season ...
Jimmie Johnson Captures 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Championship; Claims 20th Modern Era Driver Title for Chevrolet
Denny Hamlin Crowned 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year with Third Place Finish at Homestead; Finishes Third in Final Season Standings; Team Chevy Drivers Claim Four of Top-Five Season-Ending Points Positions
Homestead, FL - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS, is living his dream - as the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion. It is not only Johnson's career-first championship, but the first for crew chief Chad Knaus as well. It is the sixth championship for team owner Rick Hendrick.
Johnson's task going in to tonight's Ford 400 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway was to finish 12th or better to secure the title regardless of what any other contender did in the 267-lap race. Johnson and Knaus did everything they needed to do coming home with a ninth-place finish.
"It's such a long day to get here," said Johnson. "There were times when we were down and out and in the back and had to come back through. It's going to take a little bit to sink in but just to think of what this team's accomplished. It's everything I've ever wanted to be. It's been a long time since I've won a championship. This means the world to me. I think we knew in our hearts we could do this. We just had some bad luck in the beginning and that's what let us get the momentum and sleep at night because we knew this team was capable of winning a championship. We just needed some luck."
"We had to battle back from a lot of weird stuff this year," said Knaus. "They did what this team is all about. It took us a little bit of time. There's never been a team, I don't think, that's had to come into the Nextel Cup Series with as much pressure as this team has had on it. When we showed up here in 2002, we had Jeff Gordon's championship winning race cars. So Jimmie and the team and I all had to step up and go out there and do what Jeff Gordon did. For us to come out of the box and finally to come back and win the championship in 2006 is just an incredible feat. This is a childhood dream. I'm very fortunate."
Johnson's title is the 20th Modern Era driver's championship for Chevrolet and 23rd overall. Bowtie drivers scored a record-setting 23 wins in NNCS competition in 2006, the most in the Modern Era.
"Winning Chevrolet's 26th modern era NASCAR Nextel Cup manufacturer's championship and today our 20th driver's championship is a testimony to the excellence of Team Chevy's people--the drivers, teams, engineers and support staff who make it happen," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. "We are so proud of our teams for their hard work and once again demonstrating why Chevrolet is America's brand both on and off the track. We congratulate Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, Rick Hendrick and the entire Hendrick organization on Jimmie's first championship in the series, and welook forward to kicking off the 2007 season with a strong Chevy presence at Speed Weeks at Daytona International Speedway."
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Express Monte Carlo SS, capped a remarkable rookie season with a third place finish in tonight's race to claim the 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year crown. His two victories, eight top-five and 20 top-10 finishes landed him third in the final standings.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo SS, finished fifth at Homestead to solidify fourth place in the season ending standings.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS, ended the season fifth in the overall standings Team Chevy four of the top-five positions in the final NNCS championship points order.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS, finish sixth in the point standings followed by Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS in seventh. Kyle Busch, No. 5 Kellogg's Monte Carlo SS rounded out the top-10 in the final Chase for the Nextel Cup standings.
Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Monte Carlo SS, scored a career-best second place finish in the season ending race.
Chevy drivers claimed five of the top-10 finishing positions at Homestead. Greg Biffle (Ford) was the race winner, followed by Truex, Jr., Hamlin, Kasey Kahne (Dodge) and Harvick. Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Monte Carlo SS, finished 10th.
Chevrolet locked up the 2006 Manufacturers' Cup with Harvick's victory at New Hampshire International Speedway in September. The season-ending Manufacturers' Cup standings are: Chevrolet, 279 points (23 wins); Dodge, 203 points (7 wins) and Ford, 202 points (6 wins).
Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team will be honored as the NNCS champions at the annual banquet on December 1, 2006 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City, New York.
-credit: gm racing