By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
To say the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season had a plethora of storylines would be a complete understatement. The past year was jam packed full of disappointment, excitement and utter unpredictability. Here are five of the top moments from the season:
5. Dale Jr.’s concussion
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is always a big story, whether he is winning races and contending for championships or as was the case this year suffering injuries.
Earnhardt had a hard accident at Michigan which jarred his head. He raced for another week, as he believed he was suffering from a sinus infection.
However after another minor crash in Daytona, Earnhardt realized his symptoms were actually that of a concussion. The brain injury scrapped the remainder of Earnhardt’s season and sent him on a personal journey of getting his health on track for the 2017 season.
4. Spring Phoenix finish
Just weeks after an epic Daytona 500 finish, we were treated to another incredible photo finish at Phoenix International Raceway.
Kevin Harvick is undoubtedly the best driver at the 1-mile track in Arizona, but Carl Edwards was giving him a run for his money in the closing laps of the race.
Going into the final turn, Edwards got alongside Harvick, and as the two approached the finish line they began to slam into each other. Harvick would narrowly edge out Edwards for an incredible win.
3. Tony Stewart’s stirring Sonoma win
Just about a month before the season started, it looked like Tony Stewart’s final season was already over as he suffered a burst fracture in his back after an incident in a dune buggy in California.
Stewart would not let his career end on that note though. After having surgery and making it through rehab, Stewart returned to the track.
By the time Summer hit, Stewart had begun to turn in some decent results. Then came Sonoma, where Stewart found himself leading the race in the closing stages.
With one lap remaining, Denny Hamlin booted Stewart out of the lead. It looked like the improbable chance of Stewart winning was over. However coming into the final turn, Stewart had a great run, and Hamlin was driving conservatively.
Stewart body slammed Hamlin and reclaimed the lead just before the start finish line for the win. Stewart would go on to make the Chase in his final season.
2. Amazing Daytona 500 photo finish
The Daytona 500 is the Great American Race, and this year the finish definitely lived up to that billing.
In a race that was dominated by Toyota Racing, the battle for the victory came down to Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. who all drive Toyota power plants.
Going into the final turn, Hamlin shoved his teammate Kenseth out of the way for the lead. However, Truex was still right there on the inside line. The two drivers had a drag race to the finish line, and Hamlin took the win by about an inch.
1. Johnson’s incredible clutch performance in finale
Before the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead began, Jimmie Johnson started behind the eight ball as he failed pre-race inspection. As a result, Johnson had to start at the rear of the field.
By lap 48, Johnson had worked his way inside the top-10. But once he got there his momentum slowed.
After a late-race melee wiped out a major championship contender (Carl Edwards). Johnson then pounced on the ensuing restarts.
Johnson would get past Kyle Larson on a green-white-checkered finish to secure his seventh Sprint Cup title. Johnson now joins Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty as the only seven-time champions in the history of the series.