"It (stinks) to be close and not get it," Johnson said. "That's just the way it is. The statement I made about the eight championships is on that big wish list that ... we all have a wish list. The reality of that isn't something that motivates me, and I'm not focused on it or think about that number.

"It was really to give everybody an answer, because everybody would ask me, 'What next?' "

Johnson's demurral aside, Keselowski's victory may represent the sort of changing of the guard that occurred when Jeff Gordon brought Johnson into the sport just over a decade ago.

Gordon was on the way to the 2001 championship, his fourth, when he lobbied car owner Rick Hendrick and sponsor Lowe's to take a chance on Johnson. In the 11 years thereafter, Johnson has collected five titles, Gordon none.

Asked whether his championship might be another watershed transition, Keselowski paused for a moment.

"Whoa, I don't know about that one," he said. "That's a tough question to answer. It'd be a lot easier if I did it again.

"I'm going to work to try to do it again."