The Final Word – As it all went to crap for Edwards, Johnson rolls a seven in NASCAR finale

It was down to four as NASCAR made its final stop of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Two champions had already been declared, with Johnny Sauter taking the truck title, with the junior circuit claimed by Mexico’s Daniel Suarez. Now it was down to Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano to determine the Cup championship.

Three-time champion Tony Stewart was the other driver who mattered. After 618 races, three championships, one more as a car owner, and with an IndyCar crown in the mix, he was stepping out as a driver to become a full-time team owner. As the laps went by, it became obvious this, like so many others in recent memory, was not going to be his day. That day could come next season if his drivers do well, and definitely will arrive soon enough when the Hall of Fame welcomes him.

Within 60 laps, our contenders were all in the Top Five, along with Kevin Harvick, who at the time was leading the pack. It was obvious all those who mattered would be vying not only for the title but the win. It all depended on fate. Even so, if bad things happened early enough, they could be overcome. Johnson started at the rear of the pack due to some unauthorized modifications. No biggie. Kyle Busch came in early for a softening tire to go from being in the Top Five to the Top 20. Not a problem that could not be overcome. The secret was to stay close, and as the laps counted down, they were.

As I’ve mentioned before, I do not watch the races live. I set it up to record, and start it up a couple of hours after the start time. If I had to sit through it live, and all those commercials, I do not know if I could do it. They need to come up with a better plan or surrender their viewership to only the most avid racing buffs. Few others would bother. Few others are these days, or so it appears. Then again, not my circus.

It looked like Edwards, leading the way, might be the guy to beat. He was. Literally. A late caution interrupted the victory parade, and when they came out of the pits Carl led the Fabulous Four, with Logano behind him, two spots ahead of Johnson, with Kyle Busch sitting beside him on the re-start. As they pulled out, Logano attempted to dive down inside of Edwards, who tried to block. They collided, with Edwards slamming into the inside wall. He was done, as the red flag came out for 30 minutes in order to clear the carnage that included a bunch of names that normally would make headlines.

Edwards’ reaction? He walked from the crash site to the pits, explained things to Logano’s crew, shook hands, and continued on to the care center. At a time when some would have went sniveling off to their safe place, that driver showed more class than most have. Than I have. Another season without getting the ring, but he left with tons of respect.

They tried to get things going again, but then Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun to bring out yet another caution, Johnson was sitting second. As they went one final time for a green-white-checker conclusion, he started on the inside lane, with Logano behind him, but history did not repeat itself. Johnson got tagged by his rival, but that only shot him to the front and that is where he stayed.

Eighty career wins. Seven NASCAR championships. Sometimes life provides something that just makes you feel good. Real good. Homestead delivered just that as the final story of the final chapter of the 2016 season closed the book. Now, it is off to Daytona…in three months.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


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