Johnson Wins Championship, Biffle Takes Race Bud Team Finishes 19th after Leading 47 Laps It required dodging several close calls in a race plagued by 10 cautions, one red-flag, and a green-white-checkered finish, but in the end Jimmie Johnson...
Johnson Wins Championship, Biffle Takes Race
Bud Team Finishes 19th after Leading 47 Laps
It required dodging several close calls in a race plagued by 10 cautions, one red-flag, and a green-white-checkered finish, but in the end Jimmie Johnson secured a ninth-place finish in the season finale Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, good enough to win his first NASCAR Nextel Cup championship. Despite all the drama in getting to the finish, it was never really close, as he beat Matt Kenseth by 56 points. Greg Biffle won the race, outlasting Dale Earnhardt Inc. rookie Martin Truex Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team led 47 laps -- one more than its previous best at this 1.5-mile oval -- but found the wall on lap 225 and finished 19th. Dale Jr. ends the season fifth in the point standings, his third top-five points finish in the last four years. The Bud team's 2006 totals include one victory (Richmond), 10 top-fives and 17 top-10s. Junior led 18 of the 36 races this year for a total of 444 laps.
Key Moments: It was a tale of two races for the Budweiser team, as the red #8 car was the quickest on the track during the daytime, but became increasingly tight in the corners as the sun set over Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dale Jr. started 14th, passed eight cars in the first two laps, and benefited from adjustments made on a lap-16 pit stop to register the fastest lap-times on the track. Using the high line to perfection, he worked his way into the lead by lap 106 and was there again when the green flag waved for a lap-121 restart. Junior paced the field for the next 45 laps, but began to struggle with the car's handle as the track began to cool. Junior was in 10th position when contact with the wall flattened the right side of the car. Late pit stops for fresh tires, air pressure adjustments and cosmetic repair work never brought the Bud Chevy back to its original dominance, as Junior was forced to settle with a top-20 in the season's finale.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"We had a really, really good car when the sun was out, but as soon as the sun went down, it was like hitting a switch. We got real tight, and we just weren't that good after that. My team, I'm real proud of them. They've got a lot to be happy about after what they've been able to accomplish this year. The cars were awesome all year. The guys are a little down on themselves right now about the way this race ended up, but they've got a lot to be proud of. I hope they realize that."
On hitting the wall on lap 225: "Yeah, just got tight and drove it in the fence. It's the way it goes sometimes."
On looking forward to 2007: "Yeah, I can't wait. We've had a great team all year long, and we've got so much to look forward to. We just need to maintain a positive attitude during the off-season. We'll get some great cars built, and we'll put it to 'em next year."
Best Radio Chatter:
Dale Jr. started the race like he was shot out of a cannon, going from 14th to eighth in one lap, and climbing to sixth on the second. His fast start led to this conversation during the first caution:
Dale Jr.: "It's a little snug in, slides the right rear off. It was really good the first couple of laps. (Pause). Don't know if you noticed, but I passed like 10 spots there."
Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "Yeah, ten-four."
Dale Jr.: "I know you're impressed. You just don't wanna act like it."
On lap 196:
Dale Jr.: "Damn, they needed to turn the lights on sooner. I need headlights!"
Steve Hmiel (spotter): "Do you still have your tinted shield on?"
Dale Jr.: "Haha... oh yeah. Don't tell anyone."
Hmiel: "No worries, just between us boys."
Dale Jr.: "Ha! That's funny as hell!"