HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Jimmie Johnson defeated three to tie two to be the one.
Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, won the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale to outpace the other three drivers in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday to earn his seventh series championship, tying a NASCAR record held by Hall-of-Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
“Just beyond words,” said Johnson, who also won NASCAR championships in 2006-10 and 2013. “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. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) 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.
“So thrilled to be in this moment, so grateful for the opportunity and so thankful and blessed. I am at a loss for words.”
Johnson – en route to his 80th career win, most among active drivers – qualified 14th but started from the rear of the field because of an unapproved body modification. He quickly moved forward, regained 14th place by lap 16, and ran near the front for most of the night. His biggest break came with 10 laps remaining when he avoided a 10-car incident that put the race under a red flag for 31:09. Two restarts later he was second, quickly took the lead and held on to drive to Victory Lane and into history.
“Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, Rick Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports on another championship,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Jimmie overcame adversity several times throughout the race. He started from the rear of the field and drove steadily up the field. Late in the race, he avoided that multi-car wreck and kept himself in a position to put his name in the record book once again. He never gave up. Seven championships, incredible. That is an amazing feat and just further reinforces his legendary status.”
Johnson, who is the all-time leader in Chase wins with 29, scored his first career victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway to deliver Chevrolet’s 31st driver’s championship. It marks Hendrick Motorsports’ 12th championship, most all-time among team owners. Johnson only led the final three laps.
He finishes the 2016 season with five wins, 11 top-fives, 16 top-10s and one pole.
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS, led a race-high 132 (of 268) laps and finished second at Homestead. Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, was third to complete a 1-2-3 Chevrolet sweep. Harvick led 79 laps.
Sunday’s event also marked the final NASCAR race for three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who spent the last eight seasons of his career as the owner/driver of the No. 14 Always a Racer/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS. Stewart won one championship as a driver and two as an owner during that time. Stewart finished 22nd, two laps off the pace.
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, finished 11th to clinch the Rookie of the Year Award.
“I’m proud of our season for sure,” said the 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. “I’m definitely proud to earn the Rookie of the Year honors. It’s been a long season, a lot of ups and downs, but we’re happy to be here and definitely enjoyed racing against those guys for the Rookie of the Year this season. Felt like it was a fun group, and we’re excited to get on to season two.”
In his first season in the Sprint Cup Series, Elliott scored 10 top-fives, 17 top-10s and two poles.
Jamie McMurray (No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, fifth), AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Kroger/Clorox Chevrolet SS, eighth) and Michael McDowell (No. 59 Thrivent Financial Chevrolet SS, 10th) also finished in the top 10 for Chevrolet.
Johnson’s driver’s title was the second of the weekend for Chevrolet. Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 21 Allegiant Silverado, clinched his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship with a third-place finish in Friday night’s NCWTS season finale’. Sauter, who had three wins and 19 top-10s in 23 starts, is the 13th driver for Chevrolet to win a championship in the Truck Series. Elliott Sadler finished as the NASCAR Xfinity Series runner-up following a third-place finish in that series’ season finale’ on Saturday. Sadler ended the season just two points off the pace.
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 115 countries and selling more than 4.0 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.