HOMESTEAD, Fla. – All Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus wanted was another shot, and when Dylan Lupton hit the Turn 2 wall on Lap 252 to bring out the fifth caution of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, Knaus clenched his fist in anticipation.
At the time, Johnson was running sixth, trailing the three Championship 4 drivers—Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards—he needed to beat to claim a record-tying seventh title. But the caution with 15 laps left in the scheduled distance breathed life into the No. 48 team.
Three restarts later, Johnson passed Kyle Larson for the victory and earned his seventh championship, tying NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the series record.
Knaus tied a record, too, winning a seventh title with the same driver. Knaus, however, has one championship to go to tie Dale Inman for the series record. Inman won seven championships with Petty and another with driver Terry Labonte.
“I’m pretty speechless right now,” Knaus said after the race. “It has been an awesome, awesome journey, but it has been a very trying season. We’ve had a lot of good things. We’ve 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. That we got three wins in the second half of the season is pretty phenomenal.”
One of the hallmarks of the No. 48 team has been its ability to recover from adversity, and Sunday night was no exception. Johnson started the race from the rear of the field after NASCAR discovered unapproved modifications to the “A” posts during pre-race inspection.
“It happens,” Knaus said with typical terseness. “We rectified it. We moved on. We started 40th and won the race and won the championship.”