Rick Hendrick capped a record-making season Friday night with NASCAR's highest award, and the car owner had to stop to compose himself during the annual awards ceremony that honored driver Jimmie Johnson's fourth consecutive title.
Johnson's championship gave Hendrick Motorsports its 12th NASCAR title, and capped a year that saw Hendrick sweep the top three spots in the standings. For his efforts, Hendrick was given the Bill France Award of Excellence.
It was presented by Betty Jane France, widow of former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr., and Hendrick had to stop to compose himself while accepting the honor.
"My speech, I don't think I'll be able to do it," he said.
It was yet another Hendrick celebration, only this time the party was in Las Vegas and roared long into the night. NASCAR celebrated its season in New York City for 28 consecutive years, but moved out West this year for a change of scenery that the entire industry enjoyed.
"The change of scenery is welcome by all the drivers," said fifth-place finisher Denny Hamlin, who thanked series sponsor Sprint for the "two hot girls" they send to Victory Lane each week and Coca-Cola, he described as a great soda and mixer.
Comedian Frank Caliendo hosted the event and kept things rolling through the four-plus hours, eventually turning it over to the drivers _ and to Johnson, who sat at the main stage for the fourth straight year.
He collected a check of $6.6 million by Sprint chief executive officer Dan Hesse.
"I'd be willing to give a donation to get Jimmie to retire. Or at least take a vacation for five or 10 years," joked two-time champion Tony Stewart, who finished sixth in the standings.
Johnson, who was roasted earlier this week by the 11 other championship contenders, has shown no signs of letting up.
"We've won four. Let's see if we can win five," he said.
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