It would have been a major upset if the Ford EcoBoost 400 hadn't resulted in a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship for Jimmie Johnson; and sure enough, there was no such shock on offer at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday night, which saw Johnson duly anointed with a newly-minted 2013 title.
"This is extremely sweet," he said as he celebrated in Champion's Victory Lane. "I am at a loss for words, but I am so proud, and so thankful for this opportunity at Hendrick Motorsports, thankful that Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick gave me this opportunity back in 2002, thankful that Lowe's came on board.
"This sport is about people and our people at Hendrick Motorsports, especially on this #48 car, rose up and got the job done," he added. "I am so thankful to be able to drive for this race team, and so honoured and so excited to have a six-pack,' he quipped.
He had come into the weekend with a 28 point lead over nearest rival Matt Kenseth, and as long as he avoided total disaster it seemed that nothing could prevent the five-time champion from finally picking up that coveted sixth trophy at long last. All he had to do was finish in the top 23 and the deed was done.
Even so, there was nearly was
a moment of disaster for Johnson 74 laps from the end of the 267-lap race that took just over three hours to complete at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway under the setting evening sun.
Having been content to run on the outskirts of the top ten, Johnson ended up caught up in the middle of a turbulent restart after a caution for debris that included a collision with none other than the #20 car of Kenseth.
"Something happened in front of us in our lane and had everyone stacked up," he explained after the race. "I got hit from behind then got into the #20. We were both out of control, and I thought, 'Man this is going to be wild. The #20 and #48 are going to wreck on the front stretch!'"
"I didn't even know we had contact on the restart," said Kenseth of the incident. "It was the weirdest thing. I still haven't even seen it ... I got off the gas not to wreck, I got hit in the right rear, if it was Jimmie, I have no idea until you just told me. I didn't know where he was."
Fortunately neither car spun out, although Johnson dropped 15 places as a result of the impact and the #48 sustained damage on the left fender that needed work on pit road to correct.