MIAMI – Sports history has been made many times in South Florida over the years, but none as recent as Sunday when Jimmie Johnson captured his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He accomplished the feat by taking the checkered flag in the Ford EcoBoost 400, his first win ever at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson’s championship puts him in a class with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the only drivers to win seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles, which are the most all time.
The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports also becomes the third consecutive driver to win both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title and the Ford EcoBoost 400 under the current elimination-style format in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, joining Kevin Harvick (2014) and Kyle Busch (2015). Prior to today, the only current Sprint Cup tracks at which Johnson had not won were Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Watkins Glen International. Johnson’s previous best finish in the Ford EcoBoost 400 was a pair of second-place showings (2004 and 2010).
“It’s just beyond words,” Johnson said. “I 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. (Crew chief) Chad (Knaus) 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.”
To win the title, Johnson beat out Championship 4 contenders Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. Logano finished the race in the fourth position, while defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Busch placed sixth. Edwards finished 34th after he was involved in a nine-car accident on a lap 259 restart in which Edwards and Logano made contact, bringing out the red flag.
Johnson’s 2016 title comes on the 10-year anniversary of when he won his first Sprint Cup Series championship (2006), which he won convincingly by 56 points ahead of runner-up Matt Kenseth.
In addition, Hendrick Motorsports took home their 12th series owners championship, which is the most all time in the sport. It is also Hendrick Motorsports’ 15th NASCAR national series owners championship, extending its all-time record.
Chad Knaus, crew chief for the No. 48 team, was equally as ecstatic with taking home the championship.
“I’m pretty speechless right now,” Knaus said. “It has been an awesome, awesome journey but it has been a very trying season. We’ve had a lot of good things. We have had some difficulties along the way. But to be able to be where we are at today with Lowe’s, one team, one driver, one crew chief, one sponsor…to be able to win all seven championships is just awesome. I can’t thank everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet enough. All of our other corporate partners. The guys and gals at HMS have buckled down and worked so hard to be able to give us the race cars we needed to have to be able to compete. It definitely showed. We got three wins in the second half of the season is pretty phenomenal.”
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Elliott finished the season with 10 top-5 and 17 top-10 showings.
Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart finished 22nd in what was the final race of his storied career.
“I’m proud. It’s been an awesome 21 years racing in NASCAR with the XFINITY Series and the Cup Series,” Stewart said. “That is really cool to see that No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) up there making history. Now we’ve got three guys in the seven win club. I’m pretty proud day, I was glad I got to race with him on the day he got his seventh.”