Jimmie Johnson wins seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Jimmie Johnson in 2015
Image: Sarah Stierch.

On Sunday, Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports won the 2016 Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. The title tied him with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most in Cup Series history.

Although he qualified 14th, a ruling of illegal modifications to his car required him to start the race at the back of the field of 40 cars. Meanwhile, fellow Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano qualified 9th, 10th and 13th, respectively. Pole position winner Kevin Harvick led the first 31 laps; Kyle Larson led the race high of 132 laps. Despite his last-place start, Johnson was able to reach the top five in less than 50 laps. However, Johnson remained behind his three championship rivals.

The race featured seven caution periods, six different leaders and 20 lead changes. The first caution came when Ryan Blaney hit the wall on lap 28; he would be involved in another caution on lap 208. Jeffrey Earnhardt spun on lap 81, while the third caution of the night came for debris on lap 172.

On a restart with ten laps to go, Edwards collided with Logano while attempting to block him. The resulting crash collected Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott, Regan Smith and Martin Truex Jr., whose car caught fire after hitting Keselowski. Logano received minimal damage in the contact with Edwards and was able to continue.

With less than four laps left, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall, resulting in an overtime finish, which extended the race length to 268 laps. Johnson took the lead from Larson with three laps to go and held on to win his 80th Cup race and the championship.

Johnson commented, "It's just beyond words [...] 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."

Larson finished second, followed by Harvick, Logano and Jamie McMurray. With his fourth-place finish, Logano finished second in the points standings with 5,037 points, three fewer than Johnson; Busch, sixth in this race, and Edwards, 34th, finished third and fourth in the standings with 5,035 and 5,007 points, respectively.

The championship was Johnson's first since 2013, and at the age of 41, he became the youngest driver to win seven titles. Prior to 2013, he won five straight championships from 2006 to 2010.

The race also marked the final Cup start for three-time champion Tony Stewart, who finished 22nd. Stewart congratulated Johnson in victory lane and Johnson gave Stewart his helmet as a gift.

Official Top-10 Race Results for the 2016 Ford EcoBoost 400
Position Car Number Team Driver
1 48 Hendrick Motorsports Jimmie Johnson
2 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Kyle Larson
3 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Kevin Harvick
4 22 Team Penske Joey Logano
5 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Jamie McMurray
6 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Kyle Busch
7 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Matt Kenseth
8 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing A. J. Allmendinger
9 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Denny Hamlin
10 59 Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing Michael McDowell
Final 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup standings
Position Car Number Team Driver Points
1 48 Hendrick Motorsports Jimmie Johnson 5,040
2 22 Team Penske Joey Logano 5,037
3 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Kyle Busch 5,035
4 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Carl Edwards 5,007
5 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Matt Kenseth 2,330
6 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Denny Hamlin 2,320
7 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Kurt Busch 2,296
8 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Kevin Harvick 2,289
9 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Kyle Larson 2,288
10 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott 2,285
11 78 Furniture Row Racing Martin Truex Jr. 2,271
12 2 Team Penske Brad Keselowski 2,267
13 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Jamie McMurray 2,231
14 3 Richard Childress Racing Austin Dillon 2,223
15 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Tony Stewart 2,211
16 34 Front Row Motorsports Chris Buescher 2,169


Sources

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