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NASCAR Notebook: After title, Johnson now needs to chase Labonte

Associated Press
The NASCAR notebook …
While Jimmie Johnson has now matched Cale Yarborough’s record of three straight Cup titles, and Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt both hold a record seven championships, there is still at least one title winner in NASCAR with an unmatched record.
Bobby Labonte remains the only driver in NASCAR history to have won titles in both Cup (2000) and the second-tier Nationwide Series (1991).
“I have to consider that one of the highest honors of my career,” Labonte said. “I mean, no one else has done it.
“There have been a lot of great drivers that have competed in both series and I’m sure someone will join me eventually. Carl (Edwards) is coming closer and closer every year. I’m beginning to feel like the ’72 Dolphins.”
Edwards won the Nationwide championship in 2007 and came close to repeating in that series and beating out Johnson for the Cup title this year. But the Roush Fenway Racing driver came up 21 points short in Nationwide and 69 short in Cup.
When Labonte won his title in what was then the Busch Series, it was truly a feeder series for Cup.
“Back then we were guys hoping to make it,” Labonte said. “I owned my own team and really enjoyed racing against Chuck Bown and Rob Moroso and Kenny Wallace. Those are some of the best memories I have. We would really get after it. I learned so much during those years.”
Labonte still occasionally races in the Nationwide Series, but he concentrates most of his efforts on driving the No. 43 Dodge for Petty Enterprises. The younger brother of two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte finished 21st in the 2008 season standings in Cup.

A LITTLE HELP: Rick Hendrick, one of the biggest car dealers in the United States, as well as owner of a race team that has won eight of the last 12 Cup championships, has issued a plea for support of a government bailout of struggling General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
“The Big Three are the back of our country,” said Hendrick, whose team races Chevrolets. “With nearly 7,000 people working at Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group alone, I see their impact firsthand.
“The manufacturers play an irreplaceable role in the global economy and support millions of Main Street American jobs. I feel responsible to those people and their families, and our leaders in Washington should, too.”

STAT OF THE WEEK: Despite Johnson’s championship run and the early season heroics of Kyle Busch, it was Carl Edwards who wound up with the best overall statistics in the Cup series in 2008.
Edwards had series highs of nine victories, 19 top-fives and 27 top-10s. Johnson wasn’t far behind, with seven wins, 15 top-fives and 22 top-10s. But Johnson only had one race in which he failed to finish, while Edwards failed to finish twice. And Johnson also outstripped his closest pursuer in bonus points ó five for each race he led and five for each race in which he led the most laps ó 195-130.
Busch, who stumbled badly in the 10-race Chase for the championship and wound up 10th in the points, finished with eight victories, 17 top-fives, 21 top-10s and 155 bonus points. He failed to finish two races.

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