The joy of six: Jimmie Johnson wins 6th Sprint Cup title (VIDEO)

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Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports are back on top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Johnson finished ninth in this evening’s season-ending Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which was enough to claim his sixth career Sprint Cup championship by 19 points over Matt Kenseth.

Kenseth left almost nothing on the table in South Florida, leading the most laps en route to a second-place finish. But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver also needed a big stumble from Johnson in order to have a real shot at the title.

It almost happened. On a restart with 74 laps to go, Johnson fell from eighth to 23rd after being caught in a stack-up caused by his Hendrick teammate, Jeff Gordon, spinning his tires.

Johnson picked up some slight left-front fender damage but Kenseth also lost ground in the fracas, which somehow did not end in a crash. A caution on Lap 206 of 267 then allowed Johnson’s No. 48 team to pull that damaged fender away from the tire during a pit stop.

The restart with 57 laps to go saw Johnson take the green in 17th, but he had risen back into the Top 10 by the time the yellow came back out again with 37 laps left after Paul Menard’s rear tire caught on fire and then exploded moments after his No. 27 car came to his pit box. Thankfully, neither Menard or anyone on his Richard Childress Racing crew was injured in the incident.

Following yellow-flag stops, Johnson was 13th after taking four tires but moved forward several spots in his final green-flag stint without any problems. A few moments after Denny Hamlin had taken the checkered flag for the first win in his tumultuous, injury-marred 2013 season, Johnson crossed the stripe in ninth position to start yet another championship celebration in South Florida.

“Yes, yes, yes!,” Johnson screamed joyfully at the end of the race over his team’s radio. “Thank you, guys. What a race team! You guys are amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

On the other end, Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, returned the good vibes.

“Thank you, my man – thank you,” Knaus replied back. “What a spectacular job this season.”

Knaus then thanked the entire team for their efforts before telling Johnson to “get a sip of that damn bottle you got in [the car] because that’s the last healthy liquid you’re gonna have for the rest of the night.”

More to come…

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.