Jimmie Johnson has been the class of the field so far in Pennsylvania, leading the bulk of the laps in the Party in the Poconos 400.
Johnson started on the pole after Friday’s Sprint Cup qualifying session on the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” was scratched because of persistent rainfall. He briefly lost the point in the first few laps but quickly took it back, passing Carl Edwards on Lap 10. He held onto it through a race that has been run almost entirely under green; the only caution of the day came out on Lap 66 and that was just for debris.
However, following another wave of green flag stops around the Lap 100 mark, Johnson found himself in second position behind Ryan Newman, who pitted early in the round of stops at Lap 91. Brad Keselowski sat in third position, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fourth and Matt Kenseth in fifth. Kevin Harvick had been in the Top 5 leading up to his stop on Lap 99, but was tagged with a drive-through penalty for speeding on pit road and has now fallen back into mid-pack.
But Newman’s lead turned out to be relatively short-lived as he worked to save fuel and make his alternate pit strategy work. Johnson hunted down the Indiana native and took the point again with 47 laps to go.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.