Race Capsule: History and drama hit new high at Homestead
If you're reading this, you probably know that Jimmie Johnson just tied Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with his
Flag to flag: Kevin Harvick (finished 3rd) started on the pole and led 79 laps, running in the top 5 most of the race. Carl Edwards (34th) had the best car of the Chase drivers, leading 47 laps and running 2nd most of the race to Kyle Larson (2nd). Larson led 132 of the 268 laps, often sparring with Edwards much of the race. But with the other Championship Four contenders just behind, Edwards' No. 19 team told him to save his equipment and ride to his first Cup championship.
And Edwards had the Cup won, but with just 14 laps to go, Dylan Lupton (39th) cut a tire and brought out a decisive
Edwards restarted on the inside with Champ 4 contender Joey Logano (4th) right behind. As Logano aggressively looked low on the apron, Edwards threw a huge block, knowing that if Logano passed, that would be the race. But the No. 19 and No. 22 locked bumpers and Edwards slammed into the inside wall and then hard into Kasey Kahne (37th), getting airborne for a second, and then resting in what may as well had been a grave for Edwards' Cup hopes. This is the first time something this catastrophic has struck a Championship Four
The wreck damaged Logano just enough to bring him to pit road after a 30-plus minute red flag. The melee also damaged or
No. 22 crew chief Todd Gordon adjusted and repaired the car and taped up the grille, in hopes Logano could run some qualifying laps and make a last ditch ploy for the Cup. He almost did.
Johnson, whose handling
Kyle Busch (6th) made some bold moves to race into position to defend his 2015
On the final restart in NASCAR Overtime, Johnson concentrated on racing Larson, even with Logano on his rear bumper. He got a great start, dove low under Larson and took the lead and Logano could do nothing, but watch Harvick move into third and his first title pull away.
The race saw long green flag runs until the very end and Edwards and Larson pull as much as 12 seconds ahead of the rest of the competition, a trend prevalent in several Chase races. NASCAR has many issues to process this offseason - the competition level in traffic is a big one.
Tony Stewart started 11th in his final race and NASCAR allowed him to lead the field for one pace lap at the beginning. He struggled much of the day, as he has the last few years, running as low and 30th and a lap down. But he rebounded to 22nd and two laps down at the finish.
This was also the final race for Sprint as a title sponsor. Between Nextel and Sprint, Johnson won seven of the 13 titles in their era. NASCAR has not named a replacement title sponsor for 2017.
Brian Scott ran what he says is his final race and actually finished a decent 15th, after
Stewart-Haas Racing's last race with Chevy was mediocre-at-best, as they join the smaller Ford camp in 2017. Chevy probably was fine with Sunday's result, nonetheless.
There is also plenty of other uncertainty in the garage, as some smaller teams are rumored to be shopping charters and closing shops. We also may have seen Greg Biffle's last race in his nearly 20-year-long Roush Fenway Racing career. He brought home the No. 16 Roush Performance Ford 17th.
The sun set a brilliant orange on the long season in all three NASCAR divisions in a fantastic way. Several eras of sorts ended to the tune of different emotions. The only constant, of course, is change.
Top 10: Johnson; Larson; Harvick; Logano; Jamie McMurray (whale of a comeback after barely running top 15 all day); Ky. Busch; Matt Kenseth (invisibly a top 10 runner all day); A.J. Allmendinger (overcame lousy handling and a green flag pit penalty); Denny Hamlin (missed his pit stall on the first stop); Michael McDowell (final race for Thrivent Financial, second top 10, and first at a non-Daytona track).
RaceTweet: Johnson comes back to win the race and his record-tying 7th Cup championship at Homestead. Edwards and Logano with heartbreak again. Farewell, Smoke.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Kyle Larson - Larson led the most laps and was a now-seven-time champion away from his second-career win. Larson's biggest feat may have been not messing up Johnson's championship, by racing him too hard.
North Korean Missile Dud: Carl Edwards - Sorry, Cousin Carl, you had this one. But that was a mighty block there on Logano and it ruined your race. Sure, you were gracious in losing and both you and Logano agreed it was a racing deal. But if you and Matt Kenseth would just have played your cards a bit closer to the vest, you would have raced each other at Homestead and you, Carl, would have the last Cup called "Sprint."
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Jimmie Johnson - Johnson drove from 40th to inside the top 15, by the first pit stop. But Johnson and Chad Knaus-led Team 48 really persevered as they struggled with the setup and what line to run on the track. And as the race and season were on their last legs, Johnson just didn't have a hope for the other three Chasers. But then two of them wrecked and Johnson shot straight through and eventually to the win. Cheers, Seven Time.
Ghost Driver: Tony Stewart - Stewart fits the name with his dark, "ghastly", farewell paint scheme. His farewell race was a struggle from the get-go and the No. 14 Chevy just never had the ilk to stay in touch with the leaders. So his final race went about as well as the last few seasons - mediocre to poor. But here's the stat line on a brilliant NASCAR Sprint Cup career: 49 wins, 187 top 5s, 308 top 10s, only 15 poles (none the
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Michael McDowell - Ty Dillon's scheduled appearance in the No. 95 placed McDowell in the No. 59, but with a set place in the race, as Leavine Family Racing bought Tommy Baldwin Racing's charter for this weekend. McDowell and Dillon both had speed and McDowell surged through the late cautions to finish 10th. Each of the 31-year-old's four Sprint Cup top 10s
Wheel of Misfortune: Carl Edwards - The questionable caution call for Dylan Lupton's flat tire snatched the Sprint Cup title out of Edwards warm, live hands. Late cautions have turned this Chase sideways.
Jimmie Johnson's Golden
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: The Xfinity Series' first-ever Chase Championship Four finale was in the clutches of a No. 19 Arris Toyota, just with Daniel Suarez and not Carl Edwards behind the wheel. Late cautions got his competitors right to his bumper, but Cole Whitt and the No. 14 TriStar Motorsports' team's decision to stay out on old tires completely stopped the outside line and kept Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier bottled up - they had no chance.
After the race, both drivers, but especially Jones, complained about Whitt's decision. Old tires are garbage on Homestead's old racing surface. So why did he stay out? Whitt says his crew chief said they were out of their NASCAR-mandated allotment of tires.
If that is the reasoning, Whitt could have elected to give up his starting position and not affect the championship. But truth be told. Whitt and company probably just wanted to gamble and see if they could steal a good finish. Whitt finished 18th.
Every driver is on the track to win, but the decisions to do so have to be smart. On the flip side, Jones is a good kid, but he needs to learn better how to lose races. He showed a moderate lack of composure as he struggled through much of the race and then after the adversity at the end.
NXS RaceTweet: Daniel Suarez wins Homestead to become the first foreign-born NASCAR champ. The other Chasers are going
NCWTS RaceTweet: Johnny Sauter grabs his first NASCAR championship, battling hard with former teammate and champ Matt Crafton. Byron scores another win and wonders what could have been.
Georgia On My Mind: Chase Elliott hung in the top 10 the entire race, got damage in the Edwards wreck, and finished both the race and the season 10th. He will win Rookie of the
David Ragan had a nondescript 29th-place run and ended the year 33rd in points, the lowest of all drivers that ran each race. Ragan has no plans in place for next season, but certainly is looking.
Reed Sorenson has benefited from Premium Motorsports downsizing to one Cup team, driving the No. 55 to 32nd. He was 39th in points in 28 races.
Georgia drivers Ryan Sieg (12th) and Brandon Jones (15th) were decent, but not strong in the Xfinity race Saturday. They finished a very respectable 9th and 10th in points. Garrett Smithley
Struggled mightily, but his 29th-place run was good enough for 18th in points, having run 32 of the 33 races.
John Wes Townley missed Homestead-Miami with the same ankle injury that kept him away from Phoenix and Brady Boswell commandeered the No. 05 to 19th, after starting 9th. The Watkinsville native (like Townley) also ran for the team at Eldora Speedway.
Austin Hill ran a solid race in 17th, finishing a part-time schedule. And Reed Sorenson ran a TriStar Motorsports-sponsored No. 49 for Premium Motorsports and finished four laps down in 28th.
Next: No one races again until Daytona. Happy offseason.