2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champions Week – Day 5

2008 NASCAR Awards Banquet with Jimmie Johnson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 5, 2008) – A busy week in New York City culminated Friday evening with the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Jimmie Johnson, who etched his name in the NASCAR record books by becoming only the second driver in the sport’s history to win three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, was officially coronated as the 2008 series titlist. The No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team relished in the spotlight Friday afternoon, posing for dozens of photographs with Johnson and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Trophy. It’s a ritual that Johnson says he looks forward to continuing in 2009 and beyond.

“Yes, I want to win a fourth championship,” said Johnson, who along with Cale Yarborough is the only NASCAR driver to ever win three straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles. “Right now, I’m just part of history. I’d love to make history. I’m not pulling a Babe Ruth and pointing over the outfield fence and saying I’m going to hit it over here, but yeah, I want to win a fourth championship. We’ll see.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick, whose teams have won eight series championships, says the chemistry on the No. 48 team has helped provide a winning combination.

“There’s a lot of talent on that team, but the thing that really impresses me is how well they work together toward achieving the common goal of winning a championship,” said Hendrick. “They stay motivated and have that “refuse to lose” mentality. For the most part, the team has remained intact from the inception and the consistency has been a real plus in helping them get to the level they are today.”

Johnson’s wife, Chandra, says it’s amazing to see how passionate her husband is about his work.

“Jimmie loves what he does for a living and that’s a real blessing,” said Chandra. “The passion he has for driving that race car is unbelievable.”

Friday night’s awards ceremony not only recognized Johnson and his championship team, it also featured the remaining top 10 drivers from the 2008 season, including Kyle Busch (10th); Tony Stewart (9th); Denny Hamlin (8th); Jeff Gordon (7th); Jeff Burton (6th); Clint Bowyer (5th); Kevin Harvick (4th); Greg Biffle (3rd); and Carl Edwards (2nd).

Actor and film director Kevin Costner made some remarks during the banquet regarding NASCAR’s recently completed 60th anniversary season and was joined at the podium by seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty. The musical group Matchbox 20 performed and comedian John Pinette also entertained the audience.

2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Champion: Jimmie Johnson

2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Owner Champion: Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsport

Final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Top 12: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 6,684; 2. Carl Edwards, 6,615; 3. Greg Biffle, 6,467; 4. Kevin Harvick, 6,408; 5. Clint Bowyer, 6,381; 6. Jeff Burton, 6,335; 7. Jeff Gordon, 6,316; 8. Denny Hamlin, 6,214; 9. Tony Stewart, 6,202; 10. Kyle Busch, 6,186; 11. Matt Kenseth, 6,184 and Dale Earnhardt Jr., 6,127.

Raybestos Rookie of the Year: Regan Smith”