Johnson Wins Seventh Championship
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on November 20, 2016 | 7:03 P.M. EST
Johnson turned in a dramatic victory in overtime to put his name in the record books as a seven-time Sprint Cup Series champion. (Photo: Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Jimmie Johnson joined Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as the only seven-time Sprint Cup Series champions with his victory in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnson turned in a dramatic victory in overtime to put his name in the record books as a seven-time Sprint Cup Series champion.
Sunday’s win was Johnson’s 80th career victory. He had to outduel the other Championship 4 drivers Joey Logano (fourth), Kyle Busch (sixth) and Carl Edwards (34th) at Homestead.
At the age of 41, Johnson becomes the youngest seven-time champion. Petty was 42 when he captured his seventh title in 1979; Earnhardt was 43 in 1994.
“Oh my gosh, there is no, no way on earth,” Johnson said. “Just beyond words. 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. 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.”
All seven of Johnson’s championships were won under team owner Rick Hendrick and with crew chief Chad Knaus.
Kyle Larson was second with Kevin Harvick, Logano and Jamie McMurray the top five.
Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, AJ Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin and Michael McDowell completed the first 10 finishers.
Johnson will be officially recognized for his accomplishment at the Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet in Las Vegas on December 2nd.
How Johnson Won: He was forced to start from the rear when his car failed to pass pre-race inspection. But Johnson quickly moved his way to the front of the field and by lap 50 was already inside the top 10. But it was a series of late race cautions that gave Johnson the opportunity to be at the point and he got the jump on the race’s final restart in overtime after a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spin. Once he cleared Larson, Johnson was able to stay in control and took the checkered flag to score this historic win.
Who Had a Good Day: Larson had his best Homestead finish in his fourth career start…Harvick finished in the top 10 in the last nine races…McMurray scored only his second top five of 2016.
Who Had a Bad Day: Carl Edwards had the worst day of anyone. He looked to be in control of the race and a potential championship bid until a late race caution bunched up the field on lap 252. On the impending restart, Edwards went low to block a fast charging Logano and the two made contact. Edwards crashed hard into the inside wall and triggered a multi-car accident that caught up Brad Keselowski and several others. It necessitated a near thirty minute red flag for clean up but Edwards was again eliminated from winning a championship.
What Else Happened: The first half of the race was relatively calm and the Championship 4 drivers stayed within the top 10, while Larson moved to the front of the field. But the second half saw handling conditions change when the sun set and several teams had to make huge adjustments. The series of cautions at the end of the race including the one leading into overtime completely changed the complexion of the day and in the end it was Johnson celebrating with his historic trip to Victory Lane.
Quotable: “That’s 100 percent my fault,” Carl Edwards on the late race crash that knocked him out of the race.
Noteable: Johnson is the seventh different driver to win at Homestead in the last seven races…Larson led the most laps at 132…Tony Stewart finished 22nd in his last career NASCAR start.