Historic Night For Johnson
November 16, 2008 | 7:52 P.M. EST
Edwards dominated Sunday's 2008 finale and nursed his fuel load in the closing laps to score his ninth win of the season.
But Johnson was able to notch a 15th-place finish and finish the year 69 points ahead of Edwards for his third straight title.
"We had a great race car and that's what made me most comfortable," Johnson said. "From the first lap I knew we had a car that was in the ballpark. There were a couple of times when it got dicey but I felt like I was in control of the car.
"This is the ultimate reward. We work so hard to put ourselves in this position. It's total teamwork and dedication."
Johnson's title ties the mark set by Cale Yarborough who won three straight championships from 1976-1978.
It was team owner Rick Hendrick's eighth series title. He has four with Jeff Gordon, one with Terry Labonte and three with Johnson.
Johnson entered the season-ending race 141 points ahead of Edwards and with an average finish of 4.7 in the preceding nine Chase races. He won three of those events.
All Johnson needed to do in Sunday's Ford 400 was finish 36th or better.
"It’s what we work for, it’s what we do,” said Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus, the first crew chief to win three consecutive titles. “We don’t want to do anything but race and win races and win championships.”
Edwards had the day's most dominant car and passed his Roush Fenway racing teammate Matt Kenseth with three laps-to-go for the lead and eventual win.
As many of the front-runners pitted for fuel in the final laps, Edwards was able to coast his way to a series-leading ninth victory of the year.
"It's out," said Edwards who ran out of fuel and was pushed to Victory Lane. "I know we didn't win the championship, but we won the most races this season. I am really proud of these guys. You can't lose when you give it 100 percent."
"Second place in the championship isn't what we came here for, but Jimmie is a great guy and he deserves to win."
“At least we can lay our heads down tonight and know we won some races and just got beaten by a true champion,” Edwards said.
Kevin Harvick finished second with Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon third and fourth, respectively. Gordon led Sunday's race but came up short of keeping his streak of winning at least one race a season since 1993 alive.
Clint Bowyer finished fifth and was followed by Kasey Kahne, Travis Kvapil and Casey Mears.
Tony Stewart made his final start for Joe Gibbs Racing and was in the lead as the race wound down but was forced to pit for fuel ending his career with the team with a ninth place finish.
Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top 10.
Johnson will now be honored as the 2008 champion at the annual NASCAR awards banquet on Friday, December 5.