The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series thunders into the once quiet beaches of Homestead-Miami. After Phoenix, four drivers were eliminated setting up the Championship 4. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and Carl Edwards would all move on to chase the Cup. Johnson is chasing one historical honour, his seventh Sprint Cup. A feat only equalled by the likes of NASCAR legends Richard “the King” Petty and Dale “the Intimidator” Earnhardt. Busch is trying to silence his critics and win his second championship in a row. Edwards trying to seek redemption, having lost a tiebreaker in 2011. Logano is searching for his first championship title.
Homestead marks the end of a legacy. Tony Stewart has retired at the completion of the 2016 Sprint Cup season. Forty-nine wins and three Championships later, Tony will pass the helmet to HScott Motorsport driver Clint Bowyer in 2017. Stewart would score his last win this year at Sonoma, having logged 617 starts over his 18 years in NASCAR. Kevin Harvick would start on the pole for the Ford Ecoboost 400. Kyle Busch would be the highest starting chaser in ninth. Other Chasers were Edwards in seventh, Logano in 13th, and Johnson in 14th. With Johnny Sauter winning the Truck title and Daniel Suarez winning the Xfinity title there was only one more champion left to be crowned. Miami would host 267 more laps before the sun would set on the 2016 season.
Jimmie Johnson Makes History, Claims Seventh Title in Wild Homestead Race
Kyle Larson would dominate the early part of the race after stealing the lead from Harvick. He would lead for a majority of the race, with the four Chasers battling it out behind him. Edwards and Logano run ahead for most of the race at it would seem as though either would take it home. That is until Dylan Lupton blew a tire forcing a late race restart with ten laps to go. Edwards would win the race of Chasers off pit road and would line up to the inside of leader, Larson.
On the ensuing restart, the 2016 season would face its most game changing moment and most vicious crash. Edwards turned hard into one, trying to block Joey Logano. His car careened up the track and was slammed into by Kasey Kahne lifting the #19 Toyota off the ground and almost into the catch fence. Up ahead, Brad Keselowski was turned and slammed into by Martin Truex Jr., collecting others. Truex’s car erupts into flames but he is unharmed. The race would immediately be red flagged.
On the ensuing restart Logano, who with repaired damage and got a fresh set of tires, would challenge for the lead. He got off to a great restart and latched to the bumper of Johnson. Until Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecks to force overtime, where history was made. Jimmie Johnson pulled ahead and claimed the lead, he then came out of turn four and won his record-tying seventh championship.
First there was Petty, then there was Earnhardt, now there is Johnson
Johnson wins his seventh title within 10 years of winning his first. Tying the record held by the Intimidator and the King. Jimmie Johnson will cement his name in NASCAR lore, and at only 41 he still has plenty of time to chase the unprecendented 8th championship. Johnson led only three laps the entire race. This would be enough to secure not just his seventh championship but his first career win at Homestead.
Here is the top 5 from the Ford Ecoboost 400
- #48 Lowe’s Chevy- Jimmie Johnson (champion)
- #42 Target Chevy- Kyle Larson
- #4 Jimmy John’s Chevy- Kevin Harvick
- #22 Shell/ Pennzoil Ford- Joey Logano
- #1 MacDonald’s Chevy- Jamie MacMurray
Notable finishers include Kyle Busch in sixth, AJ Allmendinger in eigth, and Michael McDowell in 10th. Brian Scott, in his last career race, would finish 15th. Stewart finished 22nd in his last race, as well. Edwards finished in the 34th spot, joined by Truex Jr. in 36th, and Keselowski in 35th.
Final Chase Standings
- #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy- Jimmie Johnson 5040
- #22 Team Penske Ford- Joey Logano 5037
- #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota- Kyle Busch 5035
- #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota- Carl Edwards 5007
One Legacy Ends, Another Begins.
As Stewart logs his finals laps, fans say goodbye to Smoke and say hello to the legacy that he will leave behind. While fans say goodbye to Smoke, they must also say goodbye to Brian Scott. Scott quietly announced his retirement and at 27, he rules it as a family decision. For many Smoke and Scott fans, they will have to pick a new driver. We must not forget the new faces we will see next season, the likes of Ty Dillon and Erik Jones are the latest rookies to make it to NASCAR’s top division.
A new legacy has begun. Johnson will cement his spot among the greatest drivers to ever race. The legacy of Johnson will live on in the history books, but its still not over yet. Johnson will continue is quest in 2017 for eight championships. He will take his place in the record books alongside Earnhardt and Petty. One of only three seven-time champions, a feat that even Jeff Gordon, Stewart, Cale Yarborough and the great David Pearson did not achieve. Congratulations Jimmie Johnson, you are now officially a NASCAR legend.
The Future of NASCAR
A new title sponsor will take over when Sprint leaves. Rookies Erik Jones, Ty Dillon and possibly a few more unannounced ones will battle it out for rookie of the year. Stewart-Haas Racing will switch to Ford, and pick up Clint Bowyer as the driver of the #14. Last but not least, Jimmie Johnson will start his greatest journey yet, his quest for eigh career championships.
The 2017 NASCAR (New Title Sponsor) Cup Series will begin February 18th for the race formerly known as the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway, with the Daytona 500 following on the February 26th.