By Ben White
On the strength of seven victories and 24 top-10 finishes in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, California native Jimmie Johnson made history in 2009 by winning his fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus had found the magic, putting together four straight NASCAR Cup Series titles.
Cale Yarborough won three championships in a row starting in 1976 and Johnson joined the elite club following his 2008 crown. Now, Johnson’s titles set him on a pedestal of his own as the only driver to win four in row.
Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt collected seven championships each but none came in more than two-year intervals.
Surprisingly, Johnson seemed to have a system of starting slow at the beginning of the season and steadily working his way to the points lead. For the third time, a poor finish in the Daytona 500 began his year but a victory in the sixth race at Martinsville moved him to fourth in the standings.
Aside from falling to sixth in points on May 2 at Richmond after a 36th-place effort, Johnson remained among the top 5 in points for the remainder of the season. Victories at Indianapolis, California, Charlotte, Phoenix and twice at Dover helped him to bounce back from a dozen finishes outside the top 10.Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Roush Racing Ford, notched five wins, 21 top-10 results and seven pole positions but could not hold off Johnson’s championship charge. Martin ended up 12th in the season finale at Homestead to Johnson’s fifth-place run and was 141 points back in the final standings.
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Driving the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson posted seven wins, 24 top-10 results and four pole positions in 36 starts. Six wins came on superspeedways while the other was on a short track. Johnson had a way of making the art of winning races and championships look commonplace. His style of driving placed him in a league of his own, as he steadily closed on the record of seven titles.
On May 11, Mark Martin, wheeling the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, led 46 of 367 laps to win the prestigious Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Martin and crew chief Alan Gustafson used a perfect tire and fuel strategy to hold off Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart for his second of five victories that season. It was also the second victory of his 31-year Cup Series career at the 1.336-mile South Carolina track.
Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Lowe’s Chevrolet had seven wins, four 24 top-10 finishes and four pole positions in 36 starts.
The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Kellogg’s Chevrolet, with Mark Martin driving, won five times and had 21 top-10 results.
2009 Season Recap
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
Feb. 15 | Daytona International Speedway | Matt Kenseth
Feb. 22 | Auto Club Speedway | Matt Kenseth
March 1 | Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Kyle Busch
March 8 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Kurt Busch
March 22 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Kyle Busch
March 29 | Martinsville Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
April 5 | Texas Motor Speedway | Jeff Gordon
April 18 | Phoenix Raceway | Mark Martin
April 26 | Talladega Superspeedway | Brad Keselowski
May 2 | Richmond Raceway | Kyle Busch
May 9 | Darlington Raceway | Mark Martin
May 25 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | David Reutimann
May 31 | Dover Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
June 7 | Pocono Raceway | Tony Stewart
June 14 | Michigan International Speedway | Mark Martin
June 21 | Sonoma Raceway | Kasey Kahne
June 28 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Joey Logano
July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | Tony Stewart
July 11 | Chicagoland Speedway | Mark Martin
July 26 | Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
Aug. 3 | Pocono Raceway | Denny Hamlin
Aug. 10 | Watkins Glen International | Tony Stewart
Aug. 16 | Michigan International Speedway | Brian Vickers
Aug. 22 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Kyle Busch
Sept. 6 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Kasey Kahne
Sept.12 | Richmond Raceway | Denny Hamlin
Sept. 20 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Mark Martin
Sept. 27 | Dover Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
Oct. 4 | Kansas Speedway | Tony Stewart
Oct. 11 | Auto Club Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
Oct. 17 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
Oct. 25 | Martinsville Speedway | Denny Hamlin
Nov. 1 | Talladega Superspeedway | Jamie McMurray
Nov. 8 | Texas Motor Speedway | Kurt Busch
Nov. 15 | Phoenix Raceway | Jimmie Johnson
Nov. 22 | Homestead-Miami Speedway | Denny Hamlin