HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson fought his way through his adversity Sunday. He had to start at the rear of the field, was outside the top five much of the race, but in the end pulled off the victory. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, during the final NASCAR Cup race of 2016.
From his first career pole, Kevin Harvick led the field to the green on the outside for the final race of the season. Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott rounded out the top five.
Chase contender Jimmie Johnson was sent to the rear of the field for unapproved body adjustments. NASCAR inspectors found an issue with the cars A-Post while the car was on the grid. The crew fixed the issue prior to the start of the race and the car re-inspected.
Tony Stewart led the field for a ceremonial pace lap as this was his last race as a full time Cup driver. The field got the green flag just over 20 minutes late.
Harvick had clear lead at the exit of turn 2.
By lap 2, Johnson had moved from 40th to 27. Keselowski was second, Hamlin third, Elliott fourth and Newman fifth; the lead for Harvick was nearing a second.
Chase contender Carl Edwards had moved to fifth by lap 7. Johnson had moved to 20th. Two other Chase drivers were inside the top 10.
Edwards went to fourth on lap 15. Harvick’s lead was 1.2 seconds.
Johnson was 14th by lap 17. Edwards was third by lap 19, Johnson was 13th.
Harvick had caught the back of the field by lap 21.
The first caution came out on lap 26 after Ryan Blaney hit the wall in turn 4. He was able to continue but debris was scattered.
The leaders all pitted. Harvick was out first followed by Edwards, Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.
Hamlin missed his pit and had to come back around. Johnson restarted 10th.
Green came out on lap 31.
Harvick had a slight lead out of 2, but Edwards stayed close and had an edge at the end of the lap. Edwards was able to get a clear lead on lap 32.
Harvick stayed close however and retook the lad on lap 35. Logano had moved to third, Keselowski fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Busch went to fourth on lap38.
Edwards and Harvick were side by side by lap 40. Johnson had moved to sixth.
Johnson took fifth on lap 46. He began reporting a slight vibration shortly after.
Austin Dillon grabbed fifth from Johnson on lap 65.
Logano pitted under green on lap 67. Harvick, Johnson and Keselowski were among those who followed. Kyle Busch, Elliott, and Edwards pitted two laps later on lap 69.
When the stops cycled through, Harvick was in the lead again; Edwards, Logano, and Kyle Busch were behind with Dillon fifth. Johnson was sixth.
By lap 78, the lead was over five seconds. That was erased however, when the second caution of the day came out on lap 79, after Jeffery Earnhardt went for a solo spin exiting turn 4 while trying to enter the pits. There was no damage and continued; the leaders all pitted. Harvick was out first, Logano, Edwards, Kyle Busch and Dillon followed. Johnson restarted sixth.
Green came out on lap 85.
Logano on the inside too the lead; Edwards followed into second; Harvick third, Busch was fourth, Johnson had moved to fifth.
Edwards was looking for the lead by lap 91. He had that lead by lap 92.
Kyle Larson had moved to fifth by lap 100 and dropped Johnson to sixth. Larson went to fourth on lap 104 third a lap later. He took second on lap 108. the lead up front was just over two seconds but shrinking. By lap 117, it was under a second.
Another round of green flag stops began on lap 118 as Logano pitted; on the track Larson got by Edwards for the lead Harvick and Kyle Busch pitted on lap 119. Edwards pitted on lap 120. Johnson pitted on the same lap, as did Larson.
Edwards had the lead when the stops cycled through. Larson was close behind followed by Harvick, Logano and Busch. Larson stayed close and was able to retake the lead on lap 127.
Austin Dillon hit the wall on lap 130, but was able to continue and there was no caution. Johnson had fallen to 10th.
Edwards was looking for the lead again on lap 137; just as Kyle Busch pitted with a tire down. On the track Edwards had the lead. Busch rejoined the field 21st one lap down. His crew reported there was nothing wrong with the tire.
Larson retook the lead on lap 145. More green flag stops began on lap 152. Logano was among those pitting on that lap; Johnson, and Keselowski were among those who pitted on lap 153; Edwards and Larson pitted on lap 155.
After the stops, Larson led Edwards by 2.2 seconds, Kyle Busch was third, followed by Harvick and Logano. Johnson was 13th. Harvick took third on lap 161.
Larson had a lead of just over three seconds by lap 165.
The third caution of the day came out on lap 171 for debris in turn 1.
The leaders all pitted. Larson was out first, followed by Edwards, Harvick, Logano and Keselowski. Kyle Busch was eighth, Johnson 12th.
Green came back out on lap 178. Larson shot to the lead; Logano and Edwards dueled for second with Logano getting the spot; Harvick was fourth, Kyle Busch fifth. Johnson was 10th. Busch took fourth on lap 181. Johnson went to seventh on lap 196
Edwards and Logano were side by side for several lap, before Edwards was finally able to get second on lap 204. Kyle Busch was fourth, Johnson was sixth.
Ryan Blaney hit the wall again on lap 207 and caution four was displayed.
The leaders all pitted. Larson was out first, followed by Logano, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Edwards. Johnson came out sixth.
Green came out on lap 212.
Larson took a clear lead; Kyle Busch held onto second followed by Logano, Harvick and Edwards. Johnson lurked close behind in sixth. The lead for Larson was just over two seconds.
Edwards took third on lap 232. Soon it appeared that Edwards was slowly reeling Busch in. He had caught his teammate and was looking for the spot by lap 240. Edwards made a clean pass entering turn 3 on lap 243; Busch stayed close though and was looking to get it back. Edwards was able to defend and was soon pulling away.
Johnson nearly spun exiting turn 4 on lap 249, but saved it and continued.
Larson had nearly three second lead by lap 250. The battle was for the title, and between Edwards and Busch.
The fifth caution came out on lap 252 for Dylon Lupton losing a tire out of turn 2. He made no contact. The leaders all came in for pit stops, the most important of the season for the four Chase contenders.
Larson was out first; Edwards was second, followed by Logano, Harvick and Johnson. Kyle Busch had an slight issue when the rear tire changer fell twice. Busch came out sixth.
The green came out on lap 257; ten laps to go.
On the restart, Logano dove down to try and pass Edwards; Edwards tried to block and suddenly Edwards was shot nose first into the inside wall at the end of pit road; in the melee Martin Truex Jr., was hit hard into the wall and exploded into flames. Truex was able to climb from his flaming machine and was okay.
Edwards shot at a title was over. NASCAR red flagged the race at once. Edwards walked from the bottom of turn 1 to the infield medical center near turn 3, stopping to apologize to Logano’s crew.
A total of seven cars were involved in addition to Edwards and Truex, Keselowski, Logano with slight damage, Kasey Kahne, and Blaney were involved.
During the red flag NASCAR determined the lineup as Larson, Harvick, Kyle Busch , Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. Logano was scored 9th.. There were 17 cars on the lead lap. The red flag time was 31 minutes and 9 seconds.
Logano was among a group of cars that pitted as he reported a punctured tire. Busch and Johnson stayed out. Logano restarted 8th.
The green came out on lap 266, 5 laps to go.
Larson took the lead; Harvick was second, Johnson third, Kyle Busch fourth. Out of turn 2, Johnson was second, Logano third, Harvick fourth, Busch fifth. Behind them Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun, soon caution seven came out setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish.
Kyle Busch pitted, the two other contenders stayed out. Busch rejoined the field 13th.
Larson restarted on the outside, Johnson on the inside, Logano directly behind Johnson.
Johnson took the lead, Larson fell into second; Logano slipped back. At the white flag, Johnson led, Larson second, Harvick third, Logano fourth. Busch sixth. The full results can be found here.
The next race will be the season opening Daytona 500 Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 at Daytona International Speedway.