By Ben White
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, accumulated five wins and 16 top-10 finishes en route to joining Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers with seven NASCAR Cup Series championships.
When the 2016 Cup Series season began, no one had any idea a major historical achievement would be accomplished come November. For decades, no one expected another driver would equal the seven championships Petty earned from 1964 through 1979 with Petty Enterprises. But then Dale Earnhardt tied that mark between 1980 and 1994 with team owner Richard Childress and Richard Childress Racing.
Johnson’s previous Cup Series crowns with team owner Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports came during a record-setting run of five straight starting in 2006 and again in 2013 to reach six championships.
There was one more to come, however, producing great excitement among Johnson’s loyal fans that the seemingly impossible could be reached.
Introduced in 2004 as The Chase, NASCAR’s method for determining its Cup Series champion underwent multiple format revisions through the years. Six times, Johnson answered the challenge and emerged as the best of the best.
In 2016, Johnson had his usual mediocre result in the season-opening Daytona 500, followed by wins at Atlanta in February, Auto Club Speedway in March, Charlotte in May, Martinsville in October and Homestead during the season finale in November, giving him his seventh championship since 2006.
Joey Logano’s wins at Michigan, Talladega and Phoenix helped his championship cause, but he finished fourth in the Homestead race and settled for second in the title fight.
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Jimmie Johnson, driving the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, visited Victory Lane five times during the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series season. Even though the El Cajon, California, native had only 16 top-10 finishes, he used the win column as his biggest asset in earning a spot among the Championship 4 drivers. Then, a victory in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway sealed the deal with Johnson’s record-tying seventh championship.
Denny Hamlin, driving the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, beat Martin Truex Jr.’s Furniture Row Racing Toyota by inches to win the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. On the final lap, Hamlin was running third as he, Matt Kenseth and Truex, as well as the tightly bunched field reached Turn 3. Kenseth went high and got loose as Truex drove low. Hamlin won his first 500 in a photo finish.
Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet topped five races, while recording 16 top-10 finishes and one pole in 36 starts
Joe Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford won three times, had 26 top-10 results and earned three poles.
2016 Season Recap
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
Feb. 21 | Daytona International Speedway | Denny Hamlin
Feb. 28 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
March 6 | Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Brad Keselowski
March 13 | Phoenix Raceway | Kevin Harvick
March 20 | Auto Club Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
April 3 | Martinsville Speedway | Kyle Busch
April 9 | Texas Motor Speedway | Kyle Busch
April 17 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Carl Edwards
April 24 | Richmond Raceway | Carl Edwards
May 1 | Talladega Superspeedway | Brad Keselowski
May 7 | Kansas Speedway | Kyle Busch
May 15 | Dover Motor Speedway | Matt Kenseth
May 29 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Martin Truex Jr.
June 6 | Pocono Raceway | Kurt Busch
June 12 | Michigan International Speedway | Joey Logano
June 26 | Sonoma Raceway | Tony Stewart
July 2 | Daytona International Speedway | Brad Keselowski
July 9 | Kentucky Speedway | Brad Keselowski
July 17 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Matt Kenseth
July 24 | Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Kyle Busch
Aug. 1 | Pocono Raceway | Chris Buescher
Aug. 7 | Watkins Glen International | Denny Hamlin
Aug. 20 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Kevin Harvick
Aug. 28 | Michigan International Speedway | Kyle Larson
Sept. 4 | Darlington Raceway | Martin Truex Jr.
Sept. 10 | Richmond Raceway | Denny Hamlin
Sept. 18 | Chicagoland Speedway | Martin Truex Jr.
Sept. 25 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Kevin Harvick
Oct. 2 | Dover Motor Speedway | Martin Truex Jr.
Oct. 9 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
Oct. 16 | Kansas Speedway | Kevin Harvick
Oct. 23 | Talladega Superspeedway | Joey Logano
Oct. 30 | Martinsville Speedway | Jimmie Johnson
Nov. 6 | Texas Motor Speedway | Carl Edwards
Nov. 13 | Phoenix Raceway | Joey Logano
Nov. 20 | Homestead-Miami Speedway | Jimmie Johnson