HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson wrote his own page in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history books on Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, using a perfect restart on an overtime finish to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 and score his record-tying seventh championship.
Johnson was out of contention for much of Sunday evening’s race, having to come from behind after a penalty for unapproved modifications to the A-Pillar of his car that forced him to start last, in addition to fighting handling issues that meant he ran last among the Championship 4 for the entirety of the event.
But a crash with 10 laps to go, sparked when Carl Edwards tried to block Joey Logano’s charge up the inside and one that ultimately took Edwards out of contention, revitalized Johnson’s title hopes.
The crash shuffled the frontrunners and placed Johnson alongside defending Sprint Cup champion and title hopeful Kyle Busch for a restart with five laps to go, where Johnson flexed his muscle.
Johnson charged to second, behind race leader Kyle Larson, before another caution flew for Ricky Stenhouse’s spin off turn two that set up NASCAR Overtime and gave Johnson his final shot at glory.
On the race-defining restart, Johnson got a massive run up the inside of the race track and cleared Larson by the time he was exiting turn two, never looking back on his way to history.
Johnson led only three laps – the final three – en route to his 80th career Sprint Cup win and first at Homestead, but the bigger prize was his seventh NASCAR Premier Series crown, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most titles in history.
“I’m just beyond words,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think the race was unfolding, for us, like it needed to for us to be champions. But we kept our heads in the game and Chad pulled some great strategy for us to get some positions in the short run. Some luck came our way for us to win the championship.”
“I wouldn’t be here without the support of so many people, who never stopped believing in me and giving me this chance. From my dirt days with my parents, of course … they’re first and foremost. My brothers, my wife and family today, car owners, sponsors, Chevrolet, Lowe’s … there’s so many amazing people who believed in me for giving me this chance. Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick, all the men and women at Hendrick Motorsports who work so hard to get these cars fast … they’re all amazing. It’s been an awesome 15 years in the company. Thank you to all of them, from the bottom of my heart. I am so thrilled to be here in this moment. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and so thankful and blessed. I am lost for words.”
The title is the 12th career championship for Hendrick Motorsports and car owner Rick Hendrick, as well as the seventh for crew chief Chad Knaus, one behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman’s eight for the most championships by a crew chief.
Johnson reflected on the historic significance of the moment after the race, following the acceptance of his seventh championship trophy from NASCAR CEO Brian France.
“It’s big. (This championship and this number) has a lot of different meanings. The number seven has a very special place in my heart with Ricky Hendrick, as a lot of people know. For some reason, I felt really good and calm today. Things just kind of unfolded at the end for us. I know it was some help from above. There is just a lot of things with seven … even in my younger years with dirt bikes and things like that, the number was there. I cannot believe it!”
Larson finished second in the race, followed by Kevin Harvick.