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He's on the verge of joining Yarborough, David Pearson, Lee Petty and Darrel Waltrip as a three-time champion. Jeff Gordon, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, has four titles and Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty won a NASCAR-record seven.
Johnson has done it in dominating fashion. He has finished in the top 10 in seven Chase races and his lowest finish was the 15th last week at Texas.
But he still had a sizable lead over Edwards, and could have clinched Sunday. So his throng of friends of hometown El Cajon, Calif., made the trip to Phoenix and crowded his pit box to watch him tick off the laps. When he passed Jamie McMurray on a late restart, his friends -- which included professional baseball players Brian and Marcus Giles -- pumped their fists in celebration
Johnson started from the pole but gave way to McMurray on the first lap. He didn't take the lead until Lap 81, but was never challenged from there.
McMurray briefly moved out front again after a round of late pit stops, but Johnson blew past him in Turn 2 of a restart and was hardly challenged again. Kurt Busch made a brief run at him in the closing laps, but graciously settled for second and praised Johnson for his skillful late pass.
"I was third and the way that he went high, went low, and he was in the lead before you could snap your fingers," Busch said. "It was unbelievable to watch that type of display, and it's something pretty special."
McMurray was third, followed by Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton and David Ragan.
With the win, cash-strapped General Motors wrapped up its 32nd NASCAR manufacturer's championship.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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