Jimmie Johnson won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and with it an unlikely seventh and record-tying NASCAR Cup championship.
Johnson took the lead on a restart with two laps remaining and beat Kyle Larson to the start-finish line, igniting a wild celebration with his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.
Johnson is tied for NASCAR’s career championships lead with hall-of-famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. He had to do it after starting the race at the rear of the field after he was found to have an unapproved body modification in pre-race inspection.
To win the title, Johnson had to finish ahead of three other final-four drivers. Joey Logano was fourth, Kyle Busch sixth and Carl Edwards 34th. Edwards and Logano were involved in an accident on a late restart while Edwards was running second, completely changing the complexion of the championship race.
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The race was red-flagged for 31 minutes, nine seconds after the wreck, which involved seven other cars.
After a wreck involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. forced a caution on Lap 264, Johnson passed leader Kyle Larson on the restart and led the final three laps of overtime.
How the Chase drivers fared:
Jimmie Johnson: Struggled in qualifying, then was penalized for an unapproved body modification during prerace inspection. All he did was come from the rear of the field to win the race and his record-tying seventh title. Is it too soon to talk about No. 8?
Joey Logano: Was the victim of a late-race wreck with Carl Edwards. A shrewd pit stop by crew chief Todd Gordon put Logano in position to win his first title, but he didn’t have enough for Johnson.
Kyle Busch: A bad pit stop late in the race cost the 2015 champion and his No. 18 team. That dropped Busch to 12th place and although he rallied, he could only manage a sixth-place finish.
Carl Edwards: He appeared to be in position to contend for the race victory and, more importantly, the championship until he tried to block Logano on a late restart. That wreck ended the race and the season for Edwards, who finished 34th.
▪ Busch’s sixth-place finish gave Toyota its first Cup manufacturer’s championship. Toyota drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. won 16-of-36 races to take the title.
▪ Three-time champion Tony Stewart, retiring after an 18-year Cup career, finished 22nd. Stewart drove at the head of the field during a ceremonial pace lap before the race and was greeted by crew members of other teams.
“That was the favorite part of my day,” said Stewart, a three-time champion.
▪ Larson led a race-high 132 laps but didn’t have enough for Johnson at the end. Harvick led 79 laps, driving a Chevy for the final time. Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing is changing manufacturers to Ford next season.
They said it
“So thrilled to be in this moment. So grateful for the opportunity and so thankful and blessed. I am at a loss for words.” – Johnson.
Three tweets from Saturday’s race:
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
When: Feb. 26, 2017.