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.

"We all got it straightened up but lost a lot of track position," he continued. "With the damage and the position loss, I couldn't cut through traffic as quick as I wanted to. But we were able to get back up into the top ten."

With Johnson back up to ninth, Kenseth knew that the championship was lost regardless of what he did and so he didn't put up too much of a fight as his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin clinched the win at the end of what had been a dismal year for the driver of the #11 after his back injury at Fontana at Easter.

As for himself, Kenseth said he had no regrets about how his year had gone, his first with JGR after parting ways with Roush Fenway Racing at the end of 2012. "We lead the most laps, qualified the best, I think probably best average finish, most wins, all that stuff. From a competitive standpoint, it was our best year.

"[And] it was a great night," he added. "Jimmie and that team are obviously unbelievable. Never seen anything like this in the sport and probably will never see anything like it again," he said. "It's amazing with as tight as the rules are, multi-car teams, information sharing, and all that stuff. It's amazing they can figure out how to do that year after year."

Johnson's first five Cup championships really had come one after another after another between 2006 and 2010. For the sixth he'd had to wait for two fallow (by his standards) seasons as first Tony Stewart in 2011 and then Brad Keselowski in 2012 grabbed the initiative, but he said on Sunday that it made the final achievement all that sweeter.

"I feel like those five years were a blur, and things happened so fast. It's not that I didn't enjoy it or appreciate it or didn't respect what happened. It just went by so fast, it seems like," he said.

"I'm really going to slow things down here and enjoy it. This is so, so sweet."

He's thoroughly earned a break after 38 weeks of gruelling competition that makes being an F1 driver look like a part time job with paid vacations around the world. But Johnson won't be able to rest for long: pre-season testing starts in January, and the Daytona 500 follows in February.

And Johnson won't want to waste any time. Five-time was good, six-pack is better, but now Johnson wants to go seven-up that would see him match the achievements of NASCAR icons Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt - and he doesn't want to wait to long to see it happen, either.

"It's a huge honour," he said. "I have six, and we will see if I get seven. Time will tell."

Full race results and Sprint Cup Championship standings are available.



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