MEDIABALAP.com (Washington) – Jimmie Johnson weathered a chaotic end to the Homestead NASCAR Sprint Cup finale to claim a record-equalling seventh title alongside Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
Johnson had to work hard from the start after race officials deemed his Hendrick Motorsports team had made adjustments to his Chevrolet after pre-race inspection, demoting him to the back of the grid.
But a spirited first 50 laps brought him back into the top five and into title contention.
Two slow pitstops mid-way through left him with a tough task to claim the race win, decided in the last 20 laps.
Carl Edwards looked the most comfortable of the four title contenders throughout, and in second behind non-Chase contender Kyle Larson he appeared to be in the pound seat for the title.
But a late caution just 11 laps from the end for Dylan Lupton’s left rear puncture prompted a final flurry of pitstops.
Edwards left the pits second behind Larson, but his championship ended when he collided with fellow title contender Joey Logano as he tried to defend the inside line on the restart.
The contact sent Edwards’ Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the wall on lap 253, collecting a host of other cars as it speared back across the track.
That caused a final red flag with 10 laps to go, and Johnson managed the restart well to go into second behind Larson.
A final caution for Ricky Stenhouse Jr left the race going into overtime, where Johnson blasted into the lead on the restart to win from Larson and Kevin Harvick.
Edwards showed remarkable sportsmanship despite the agony of his title loss, heading to Logano’s crew chief Todd Gordon to shake his hand before heading to the medical centre, explaining the clash as a racing incident.
Logano eventually crossed the line fourth while Kyle Busch finished sixth. Logano couldn’t maintain the pace after the hit with Edwards while Busch struggled to keep up during the overtime phase.
In the Xfinity Series, Mexican Daniel Suarez became the first non-US driver to take the crown.
To win, Suarez had to beat fellow Chase contenders Justin Allgaier, who has two Sprint Cup seasons under his belt, Elliott Sadler and the Sprint Cup-bound Erik Jones, who will be competing for the Furniture Row team next season.
A third place at Homestead for Johnny Sauter was enough to earn him the Truck Series title for the Kyle Busch Motorsports team. (autosport.com/arl)