Jimmie Johnson usually smokes his tires to celebrate a victory. Not this time.
Instead, he drove back to the finish line to pick up the checkered flag.
A little something to ease the pain.
Johnson became the first driver since 1998 to win three consecutive races in a season, holding off Mark Martin on Sunday for a poignant victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 04, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 65 words Type of Material: Correction
NASCAR winner -- An article in Monday's Sports section about the NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., said winner Jimmie Johnson drove a victory lap in reverse. Johnson drove forward around the track in a clockwise direction rather counterclockwise, as usual. The article also said that he made a cellphone call to team owner Rick Hendrick. Johnson received the call from Hendrick.
Last week, Johnson did a burnout after winning at Martinsville, Va., but he never made it to Victory Lane. A plane carrying 10 people -- many of the key members of Hendrick Motorsports -- had crashed on its way to the race.
When Johnson got to Atlanta, he couldn't think of a better way to honor the victims than by winning the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. But he had to beat Martin, who clearly had the strongest car on the track.
"With five [laps] to go, the butterflies hit me," Johnson said. "I don't think I took five breaths the rest of the way. I didn't even want to look in the mirror, but I knew I had to because Mark was back there."
Martin led 227 of the 325 laps in a Ford, and Johnson for only 17 in a Chevrolet. But he led the one that counted, beating Martin to the line by 0.293 of a second.
Martin probably would have won if not for two late yellow flags. He stayed on the track when Kevin Harvick stalled, while everyone else in the lead pack ducked into the pits for fresh tires.
Seven of the 10 championship contenders had major problems, including points leader Kurt Busch. He blew an engine in his Ford and finished next to last, but stayed on top in the points.
Johnson jumped two places to second, only 59 points behind. He also became the first driver with three consecutive victories in a season since teammate Jeff Gordon won four in a row in 1998.
Johnson pulled his winning car up to the flag stand, picking up the checkered banner. Then, with it flapping out the driver's side, he circled the 1.54-mile track in reverse, soaking up the cheers of the crowd -- even those wearing the colors of rival drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"Typically, I would have been booed," Johnson said, managing a smile. "There's a lot of red up there. They don't like blue. That's cool.
"But all I could see today was people on the fence who were happy to see what took place."
When Johnson finally got to the winner's circle, he made a quick cellphone call to team owner Rick Hendrick, who'll get the checkered flag.
Hendrick had asked everyone on the team to wear their hats backward -- a tribute to the fashion sense of Hendrick's son, Ricky.
Three other family members were killed, along with the team's general manager and chief engine builder. Rick Hendrick's brother, John, was the team president.
Greg Anderson set a season record for wins with his 14th Pro Stock victory in the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.
Anderson, racing in a record 18th final round this season, picked up his 30th career win with a run of 6.796 seconds at 202.52 mph at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Runner-up Jason Line finished in 6.822 at 201.85.
Doug Kalitta, Gary Scelzi and Chip Ellis also won at the $1.8-million race, the 22nd of 23 events in the $50-million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
It was the fourth win of the season for Kalitta, who clocked a 4.530 at 329.02 to defeat first-time finalist Morgan Lucas, who posted a 4.612 at 306.40.
Scelzi powered to his third funny-car victory this season, upsetting newly crowned world champion John Force. Scelzi drove his car to a 4.790 at 326.32 to defeat Force, who ran a quicker but losing 4.754 at 322.81. All three of Scelzi's wins this season have come against Force.
Ellis earned his first career victory in pro stock bike by outrunning Angelle Savoie in the final. Ellis posted a 7.191 at 179.92 to defeat Savoie, who finished in 7.255 at 177.49.
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Nextel Cup Standings
*--* P Driver Pts. Pol. Wins 1 Kurt Busch 6,052 0 3 2 Jimmie Johnson 5,993 1 7 3 Jeff Gordon 5,980 6 5 4 Mark Martin 5,971 0 1 5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,954 0 5 6 Tony Stewart 5,907 0 2 7 Ryan Newman 5,866 8 2 8 Elliott Sadler 5,815 0 2 9 Matt Kenseth 5,795 0 2 10 Jeremy Mayfield 5,736 2 1
How points are awarded in NASCAR Nextel Cup races. Drivers who lead at least one lap during a race are awarded five bonus points, and the driver who leads the most laps earns an additional five bonus points. Here's the points breakdown. Winner: 180 points; second: 170; third: 165; fourth: 160; fifth: 155; sixth: 150; seventh: 146; eighth: 142; ninth: 138; 10th: 134; 11th: 130. Note: The driver finishing 12th earns 127 points, and each driver after that earns three fewer points than the driver ahead of him. Source: NASCAR