Call him seven-time; Johnson wins race and championship at Homestead
By Kyle Magda
November 21, 2016
HOMESTEAD, Fla.–Jimmie Johnson’s run at a seventh Sprint Cup Series championship looked bleak in the closing stages of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.
Then, all hell broke loose in front of the six-time champ with Carl Edwards crashing out of the 267-lap event by an unsuccessful block on Joey Logano with 10 laps to go that triggered a nine-car wreck.
Johnson got through unscathed and the six-time champ got the restart of the night in NASCAR overtime and pulled away from the field to score the win and a historic seventh championship, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most Cup titles.
"It's big, it has a different meanings,” Johnson said of his unprecedented seventh title. “The No. 7 has a very special place in my heart with Ricky Hendrick. As a lot of people know. For some reason I just felt good and calm today and things just kind of unfolded at the end for us. I know it was help from above.
“In my heart I wanted to believe it would happen. It has and I just can't believe it. Thank you so much!.”
Johnson’s day got off to a rocky start when officials forced the 48 to start in the rear after finding an illegal body modification on the Lowe’s Chevrolet.
Johnson worked his way towards the front and cracked the top-10 on lap 30 after the first pit stops of the day. Since Homestead-Miami Speedway began hosting the Cup finale in 2002, Johnson had yet to win at the 1.5-mile track in South Florida until Sunday night for career win No. 80.
“Just didn't think the race was unfolding for us like we needed to do to be the champs, but we just kept our heads in the game,” Johnson said.
“Chad called a great strategy, made some great adjustments for the short runs. Luck came our way and we were able to win the race and win the championship. I wouldn't be here without so many people believing in me and giving me this chance.
“From my dirt days - my parents first and foremost. My brothers. My wife and family today. Car owners, sponsors, Chevrolet, Lowe's, so many amazing people along the way that believed in me to give me this chance. Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick, all the men and women at Hendrick Motorsports for working so hard to get these cars fast and giving me an awesome 15 years with the company. Just thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you. So thrilled to be in this moment.
“So grateful for the opportunity and so thankful and blessed. I am at a loss for words.”
Joey Logano led six laps en route to a fourth place effort. He finished runner-up in points.
“Any time you put so much on the line and you have a late restart, you know it’s going to get crazy, and then you add two or them of them on top of that, it’s going to get crazier,” he said.
“Just proud of the effort that the team put in today. Everyone did an amazing job this week putting together a fast race car, handling the pressure that is put on these races teams, and really executing this race perfectly. We just came up a bit short.”
There was no bad blood between Logano and Edwards about the contact as Edwards came up to the No. 22 pit box, shaking hands with members on Logano’s team after a hard-fought battle among the two.
“I think it’s really cool that he said that,” Logano said. “Carl is a good person, and I got to know all three of these drivers – I’ve known Kyle really well in the past, but to get to know Jimmie and Carl, they’re three stand-up just good people and it’s hard to find that in this day and age, especially in professional sports.”
Kyle Busch finished sixth and came up short in his bid to defend his 2015 Cup title. Busch started alongside Johnson with five laps to go but spun the tires on the restart. He pitted for four tires after sliding back and charged on the outside lane in the final two laps to be the highest finishing Joe Gibbs Racing car.
Carl Edwards was the highest-running Chaser for most of the race until protecting his position from Logano’s great restart. Edwards took the defeat in stride and let everyone know the No. 19 team will be back at it again in 2017.
Kyle Larson led the most laps on the day with 132 but got overtaken by Johnson in the final laps. Larson sniffed the win last year until the final caution flew late in the race as well.
Johnson’s title is the 12th championship for Hendrick Motorsports since their inception into the sport in 1984. Sunday also marked Sprint’s last race as the series title sponsor with Johnson winning seven titles in Nextel/Sprint’s 13 years in the sport.
The No. 48 team will be honored at Champion’s Week in Las Vegas the first week of December.