Jimmie Johnson is Driver of the Year

Jimmie Johnson's unprecedented fifth consecutive Sprint Cup championship propelled him to his fourth Driver of the Year Award, which was announced Wednesday.

Johnson ties Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon as the only drivers to win the prestigious award four times.

Johnson now has won the DOY honor four of the last five years -- 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010. NHRA Top Fuel drag racer Tony Schumacher won it in 2008.

A panel of 18 journalists and broadcasters voted on the award, which also includes a quarterly recipient. Johnson won the first-quarter award this year.

Johnson was told privately he won the award during the NASCAR awards ceremony two weeks ago in Las Vegas.

"Awesome. It's an honor to win the award again," Johnson said. "Among such tough competition; with the voting panel, who it is and how well versed they are in motorsports, it's a huge, huge honor."

Barry Schmoyer, president of the DOY, said Johnson's fourth award wasn't an easy decision for the voting panel.

"This year's pre-vote teleconference was one of the most spirited debates that I can recall," Schmoyer said. "Other drivers such as the NHRA's Funny Car champion, John Force and Kyle Busch, who raced and won in NASCAR's top three divisions, had their advocates.

"As many people have said already, it will be a long time before anyone will set the bar as high as Jimmie Johnson."

The DOY panel voted in a secret ballot for a single driver. Johnson received 10 votes, Force received seven and Busch received one.

The DOY award is in its 44th year. Mario Andretti and Darrell Waltrip each won the award three times.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He also is a member of the DOY voting panel.