As families get ready for all the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes they can handle, Formula One is heading to its season finale. The last of the “big three” racing series, which also includes NASCAR and IndyCar, is the last to leave the table this season. Before we get to that, let's do a quick recap on a history-making weekend in NASCAR Sprint Cup.
If, like me, you were watching Sunday's Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, you probably figured with 20 laps to go there was no way Jimmie Johnson was going to take his record-tying seventh series title. Then, as is wont to happen, all hell broke loose.
After a caution due to Dylan Lupton (who?) hitting the wall with 15 laps to go, the restart looked like it could be the deciding factor in the championship. That could now be seen as a bit of an understatement. Carl Edwards, who had led 47 laps and could almost taste his first title, tried to block fellow championship contender Joey Logano going low into turn one. It turned out to be a disastrous decision for Edwards, who was tagged at the rear by Logano and slammed the inside wall, then careened back across the track into the outside wall.
Nine cars were involved when all was said and done and NASCAR threw the red flag so as to guarantee a finish under green. Logano had sustained a bit of damage, but after pitting following the red flag, the damage was deemed minimal.
As the field came back to green following the half-hour red flag, Johnson was now at the head of the field with Logano close behind. It was a nearly miraculous turn of events for Johnson.
After Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun with just a few laps to go to take the race into overtime, it was all down to the final restart with two laps to go. Anyone who has seen Johnson race over the last decade or so knew that it would be extremely difficult for him to be denied.
Johnson, who started at the rear of the field following a late penalty, led those final two laps (he led only three in total). Nobody challenged Johnson as he took his first win ever at the track along with his seventh championship, tying him with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.
It was really quite amazing, though I did pick Johnson in my column last week to win the whole shebang. After my predictions throughout the season gave me a few hits (and many misses), I was happy to be right about this one.
One thing I failed to mention last week, which I greatly regretted, was that it was Tony Stewart's last race as a Sprint Cup driver. Stewart will continue his ownership role of Stewart-Haas Racing and will still compete in dirt track races and likely many other forms of racing, but it will be strange to not see him on the track in NASCAR.
Stewart is a throwback to the glory days of AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones and Bobby and Donnie Allison, who could get into any kind of racecar and drive it to a win. While he may not have necessarily been a regular contender over the last few seasons, his 49 wins and three championships tell the story. Coupled with his IndyCar title in 1997, Stewart has proved to be one of the most versatile drivers in the last 50 years.
The finale was also the last race for series sponsor Sprint, who is not renewing its contract. No new title series sponsor has been announced yet, though Monster Energy Drink is rumored to be a main contender.
The Sprint Cup Series returns for the The Shootout at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18, a mere three months away.
ROSBERG VS. HAMILTON
It's all down to Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the 2016 Formula One season. Nico Rosberg has the points lead and sits twelve points ahead of Mercedes teammate and defending series champion Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg is the defending winner of the race while Hamilton has won twice at the Yas Marina Circuit. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel has three wins there, including the inaugural race in 2009, while Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen won in 2012.
As with most F1 races, the winner will likely be whoever gets a better starting spot. Both Rosberg and Hamilton have nine wins on the season, but Rosberg still holds the upper hand. However, as evidenced in the last three races, Hamilton is good at finding a way to come out ahead.
Fox Sports already went ahead and did all the work on the championship scenarios. The bottom line is as long as Rosberg finishes in the top three, there is nothing Hamilton can do to prevent Rosberg from winning the title. I think Rosberg will be able to hold off Hamilton and take his maiden championship, but it will definitely be a race worth watching.
Coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix starts at 6:30 a.m. Sunday on NBC Sports Network.