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“I don’t think that penalty will ever settle in my stomach,” Harvick said, insisting that “only a handful of people” get to see the pit road speeds. “I won’t ever settle for that.”

But he wasn’t devastated by the defeat, pointing to all the gains made this year by Richard Childress Racing. A year after failing to put any cars into the Chase, RCR had three in the field and Harvick, winner of two races, led the points for most of the regular season.

“It’s a 180 for us,” Harvick said. “Last year this time we all wanted to put a gun in our mouth.”

While Harvick could find the bright spots, Hamlin, sitting next to him at the podium, had a harder time finding much to be happy about. With a vacant look and muffled answers, he vowed to be back stronger next season.

“My job is to work in the offseason to do everything I can to be better and, you know, I know every year that I am in the Cup series, I’m going to be better than I was the previous year,” Hamlin said. “We’re going to keep working and go get them next year.”

As both drivers discussed their day, Johnson’s championship celebration was shown on the multiple televisions hanging around the room and both drivers watched portions of the presentation.

Who could blame them? It was history.

The fifth title moved Johnson past Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for most titles among active drivers. He now ranks third on the career list behind seven-time champions and Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

“Finally, finally, after being able to pull this off, he’ll get the respect and the rewards that he deserves,” crew chief Chad Knaus said.

The championship was a record 10th for Hendrick Motorsports, which broke a tie with Petty Enterprise for most in NASCAR. Johnson and HMS also joined three other pro teams — the Boston Celtics, New York Yankees and Montreal Canadiens — to win five consecutive titles. The Celtics are the all-time leaders with eight consecutive NBA titles.

“Somebody has got to win it, and I’m glad it was us,” team owner Rick Hendrick said, noting that “this race was so up and down. It was like who’s going to screw up the most?”

Not Johnson and Knaus, who overcame a few slow pit stops — their one trouble spot this season — to show why they’ve been so good for so long.