HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jimmie Johnson clinched his seventh career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
In addition to tying Johnson with first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most all-time, it built upon two records already held by car owner Rick Hendrick.
The 2016 Sprint Cup car owner championship is the 15th for Hendrick Motorsports across NASCAR’s three national series, extending the team’s all-time mark. In the car owner category, Hendrick Motorsports has now won an unprecedented 12 titles in the Sprint Cup Series.
“All of them are different and all of them are special,” Hendrick said, “but this one was really special because Jimmie was dedicating seven to Ricky.”
Throughout his chase for a seventh championship, Johnson used the hashtag #se7en on social media to honor the car owner’s late son Ricky Hendrick who drove a No. 7 car and later a No. 17.
When Johnson won at Homestead, it added to the organization’s record championship total. No other major American professional sports team has earned more titles than Hendrick Motorsports since 1984, its inaugural season.
As for the race itself, Hendrick said he could finally breathe when Johnson took the white flag as the leader.
“This was a hard-earned one tonight,” he said. “Because we had to start in the rear and then to see him drive away there at the end – so well-deserved for Jimmie and the team. They worked hard this year and overcame a lot of difficult times. I’m really proud of them.”
As NASCAR moves into its offseason, Hendrick said the championship – and the way all four cars ran late in the season – will serve as “a big morale boost” entering the 2017 campaign.
He was especially proud that after experiencing a winless streak in the middle of the year, the organization rebounded to capture its 12th Sprint Cup title.
“That’s just a testament to all the folks who work at Hendrick Motorsports,” Hendrick said. “When they make up their mind that they want to do something and work together, they can accomplish big things.”
It didn’t make the monumental championship any less surreal.
“It’s going to take a while for this one to sink in,” Hendrick said. “We’re going to enjoy this one.”