History at Homestead-Miami: Johnson Wins Third Straight Championship
Carl Edwards did everything he had to do Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, coasting to a dramatic victory in the Ford 400, but it wasn’t enough as Jimmie Johnson became only the second driver in NASCAR history to record three consecutive Sprint Cup Series championships.
A 15th-place finish for Johnson allowed the driver of the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet to join Cale Yarborough in the record book as the only two winners of three-straight titles in NASCAR’s top series. Johnson ended the year 69 points ahead of Edwards, giving car owner Rick Hendrick his eighth title.
“It’s the ultimate reward,” Johnson said. “We’ve worked so hard to put ourselves in this position, and it is such a team sport. I can’t thank (Chad) Knaus enough – he’s the first crew chief to win three in a row. There were times this year when things were dark, but we buckled down and worked, and that’s what it’s all about. Carl Edwards and his team put a lot of pressure on us this year, and they are going to be a championship threat in years to come.”
Knaus elected to take on two tires on lap 201. That call gained 12 positions and the lead for Johnson with only 66 laps remaining – moving him five points closer to the title. Johnson ran in the top five down the stretch before pitting with 13 laps remaining – ensuring that he would have enough fuel for the finish.
At the time, Tony Stewart was in the lead after running down Matt Kenseth to take the lead with 22 laps remaining. Looking to win in his final race for Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart pitted the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota with 11 laps remaining.
That gave the lead to Kenseth in the No. 17 DeWalt Ford, followed by Edwards. Kenseth ran out of fuel and began to slow with four laps remaining, giving the lead to Edwards – who slowed to nurse a 14-second lead. David Ragan was running second at the time, but quickly lost the position to Kyle Busch – and then both of them ran out of fuel.
Running at a reduced speed, Edwards ran out of fuel on his way to Gatorade Victory
Lane for a series best ninth time this season. Kevin Harvick finished second in the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, 7.549 seconds behind. Jamie McMurray took third in the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford, followed by Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet and Clint Bowyer in the No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet.
“We needed a push to get here,” Edwards said in Gatorade Victory Lane. “I know we didn’t win the championship, but we won the most races this season. Second place in the championship isn’t what we came here for, but Jimmie Johnson is a great guy and he deserves to win.”
Starting fourth, Edwards needed only 13 laps to take the lead. He dominated the opening portion of the race, leading 152 of the opening 169 laps before turning the lead to Jeff Gordon on a pit stop. From that point, Edwards led only five more laps – including the final four.
It was Edward’s second consecutive victory this weekend – but the second straight night he lost a championship. Edwards won Saturday’s Ford 300, while Bowyer won the NASCAR Nationwide Series crown with a fifth-place finish.
Stewart finished ninth in his farewell ride for the Gibbs team. Stewart, winner of the 1999 and 2000 Sprint Cup Series races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, will drive for his own team next season.
“It was awesome, leading the race with 20 laps to go and driving away from the field,” Stewart said. “You can’t ask for more than that. We were competitive tonight. We had one of the fastest cars, and everyone knew we were here all day. It’s pretty impressive (Johnson winning his third consecutive championship). You might not see that again for another 20 or 30 years.”
Edwards averaged 129.472 mph. The race was slowed by seven cautions for 31 laps, while the lead changed hands 15 times among eight drivers.