(The Sports Xchange) – Jimmie Johnson won the Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season-finale on Sunday, claiming his seventh series championship, tying NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most all-time.
Kyle Larson was the race leader on an overtime restart for a two-lap, green-flag sprint to the finish, but Johnson struck quickly, overtaking him for his first and only lead on the final restart of the race. Larson finished second.
It was Johnson’s fifth win of the season.
Carl Edwards was in position to claim his first Sprint Cup after taking second from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and fellow-championship contender Kyle Busch with 24 laps to go.
As Larson led, Edwards maintained his second position in the running order until the yellow flag waved for a Dylan Lupton spin with 15 laps remaining.
But when the race restarted with 10 laps to go, Edwards and another Chaser, Joey Logano, made contact that resulted in a larger multi-car wreck that collected the cars of Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Regan Smith. Truex’s car burst into flames.
Afterward, Edwards accepted blame for the incident.
On the restart, Logano made a run and Edwards attempted to block him. Edwards retired from the race, but Logano was able to continue with significant damage to his car after NASCAR red-flagged the race for nearly 31 minutes for track clean-up.
When the race restarted, the yellow flag waved, again, within a lap for a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wreck.
In the short time the race ran green, Johnson got up to second, and Logano moved from eighth to third with the four new tires he took during the previous caution.
Larson took his first lead of the race when he got by Edwards on lap 118 and took command from lap 144. He led most of the remaining laps over the course of the 267-lap race.
The four Championship Four drivers — Busch, Edwards, Logano and Johnson — ran inside the top-10 for most of the race, primarily occupying most of the spots inside the top-five of the running order.
Johnson started the race in the back, despite qualifying 14th, because of an unapproved body modification. He passed 10 cars on the first lap and was inside the top-10 by lap 30.
Kevin Harvick finished third, Logano was fourth and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five. Busch finished sixth.
(Editing by Larry Fine)