By taking the lead away from Kyle Larson on a final green-white-chequered restart at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jimmie Johnson joined Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty as one of only three drivers ever to win seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships.
For much of the day it looked as though Johnson was going to miss out on clinching a historic milestone. Himself, Chad Knaus and the rest of the Hendrick 48 team struggled to find a setup that allowed the car to run consistently in the top 5, with Johnson only leading 3 laps all day, the final 3.
In fact, it looked as though with just around 15 to go, that it was going to be a battle between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. Edwards had the best car of the 4 championship contenders for most of the race, and looked set to take his first title after passing Busch for 2nd in the race behind the dominant Larson.
The turning point however came when the caution waved for Dylan Lupton’s spin, setting up a battle between Edwards, Busch, Johnson and Logano with 11 to go. On the inside front row, Edwards got a poor restart, allowing Logano behind to get a run on him. Edwards went to block, only to time it too late, and get spun hard into the inside wall, collecting several other cars on the way through.
Logano was fortunate to get through the incident relatively unscathed, and when Kyle Busch came to pit road before the final restart, it set up a duel between Johnson and himself (restarting 2nd and 3rd respectively) for the championship.
Johnson got the perfect restart, and despite Logano’s best efforts, went on to win the race and the championship, with the emotion of the result bursting out as he crossed the line.
Larson led 132 laps on his way to an excellent 2nd, whilst Kevin Harvick passed Logano at the end for 3rd. Rounding out the top 5 was Jamie McMurray, making it a great day for both Chip Ganassi Racing cars.
Kyle Busch recovered from his late pit-stop to finish 6th, and take 3rd in the championship, whilst teammate Matt Kenseth finished 7th. AJ Allmendinger benefitted from the chaotic finish to be 8th, whilst 9th was the other Joe Gibbs car of Denny Hamlin. Finally, Michael McDowell did a fantastic job for underdog team Leavine Family Racing to finish 10th.
That race marks the end of a fantastic 2016 NASCAR season, full of drama and excitement, and ultimately crowning a historic champion. On the plus side, however, there’s only 98 days to go until the action starts all over again for the 2017 Daytona 500.
Image – NASCAR.com
|Top 10 Results|
|1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Kyle Larson
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Joey Logano
5. Jamie McMurray
6. Kyle Busch
7. Matt Kenseth
8. AJ Allmendinger
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Michael McDowell