NASCAR Cup Series
The Latest: Edwards halfway home to 1st NASCAR championship
NASCAR Cup Series

The Latest: Edwards halfway home to 1st NASCAR championship

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 8:57 p.m. ET

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) The Latest on NASCAR's season finale (all times local):

4:50 p.m.

Carl Edwards is halfway to his first championship.

Edwards was ahead of fellow title contenders Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson at the midway point of the 400-mile race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Whichever of the four drivers finishes highest will win the championship.


Kyle Larson, using the high line to generate more speed around the 1 1/2-mile track, retook the lead from Edwards on Lap 126. Edwards was second, with Logano fourth, Busch fifth and Johnson ninth.

- Mark Long


3:55 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson's pre-race penalty proved to be a minor speed bump in the NASCAR finale.

Johnson had to start at the back of the 40-car field after NASCAR pulled his No. 48 Chevrolet off pit road because of unapproved body modifications. Officials determined body panels had been tweaked after going through pre-race laser inspection. The car eventually made it through tech and was pushed back to the starting grid a few minutes before the green flag.

Johnson needed just 47 laps to work his way into the top five. Kevin Harvick led most of the early laps, with Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch right behind. Edwards, Logano, Busch and Johnson are the championship finalists, all vying to win it all in the finale.

Johnson is attempting to match Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with a NASCAR-record seven championships.

- Mark Long


3:25 p.m.

NASCAR's season finale is underway, with pole-sitter Kevin Harvick leading the 40-car field to the green flag.

The race is scheduled for 400 miles, or 267 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The event is filled with story lines, including Tony Stewart's final NASCAR race as well as the 2016 championship. Finalists Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano are vying for the title. Whichever of the foursome finishes highest wins it all.

The 36 other drivers are expected to give them plenty of space around the track, not wanting to affect the outcome.

- Mark Long


3:10 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson will have to start a potential record-tying race at the back of the field.

NASCAR pulled Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet off pit road after officials decided body panels had been modified after going through pre-race laser inspection. The car eventually made it through tech and was pushed back to the starting grid a few minutes before the green flag.

Johnson is attempting to match Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with a NASCAR-record seven championships.

- Mark Long


3:00 p.m.

Tony Stewart has few distractions around him before his final NASCAR race.

Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet was barricaded and protected by armed police officers before the season finale. His race car was essentially sitting in Turn 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, well away from the rest of the field. A banner flew nearby to tell fans where they could get a glimpse of the three-time Cup series champion.

''It's time. Let's go. I'm ready,'' Stewart said.

The driver nicknamed ''Smoke'' was surrounded by team members, colleagues and friends - a stark contrast to Jeff Gordon's send-off last season. Gordon was mobbed by so many fans that he struggled to get to his car before the finale.

- Mark Long


1:15 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson spent time answering questions from kids Sunday before NASCAR's season finale, a race that could be a record run for the six-time champion.

As expected, Johnson got some odd questions, like, ''Can you dab?'' and ''Do you have a big house?''

Johnson candidly and confidently answered them all, showing why he might just be the favorite to win a record-tying seventh championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here's a look at the Q&A session:

Q: What's your best championship?

A: The first one (in 2006). I had the least amount of fun because I was the most nervous, but it was the starting point. And then tying Cale (Yarborough) with three in a row was pretty awesome. But there was a lot of pressure to keep it going. And then 2013 is when I had the most fun.

Q: Favorite track?

A: Dover, Delaware (Johnson is a 10-time winner there).

Q: How many trophies?

A: Seventy-nine in the 48.

Q: If you win, will you do a front flip?

A: Off the car? Front flip into the pool maybe.

Q: Can you dab?

A: No, I can't. I've got it all wrong (after doing Usain Bolt's ''To The World'' pose).

Q: How much horsepower do the cars have?

A: About 900 horsepower. More than three times as much as the car you drive in.

Q: Do you have a big house?

A: Yes, way too big.

Q: Have you ever won here?

A: Not yet. We've taken the big (championship) trophy home, but not the smaller one.

Q: Favorite color?

A: Blue. It's worked out well with my sponsor.

Q: Do you think you can get No. 7 today?

A: I feel really good about it. I'd pick me.

- Mark Long


1 p.m.

The Tony Stewart tributes are underway at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where the three-time Cup champion is preparing for his final NASCAR race.

NASCAR's vice chairman Mike Helton thanked Stewart for ''the character and passion you brought to NASCAR all throughout your career.''

Stewart's career was celebrated in the pre-race drivers meeting with a colorful highlight video of his biggest wins, playful banter and snippy one-liners. NASCAR drivers and crew members gave Stewart a rousing standing ovation.

Stewart eventually stood and smiled, waiving in acknowledgment at the outpouring of affection.

Stewart is just retiring from NASCAR driving. He has an ownership stake in Stewart-Haas Racing and will continue to race all over the country next year at the grassroots level.

''You understand, we still invite owners to the haulers sometimes, too,'' Helton quipped.

The hood of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet is emblazoned with photos from his championship years and the slogan ''Always a Racer, Forever a Champion.''

NASCAR added a ceremonial pace lap with Stewart leading the field before the race.

- Dan Gelston


12:15 p.m.

Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez is getting a lot of attention at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto congratulated Suarez on Twitter after the 24-year-old Mexican became the first foreign champion in a NASCAR national series. Nieto tweeted in Spanish to Suarez, and called him ''a pride for Mexico and Latin America.''

''The very first time that I was going to move to the States, a lot of people told me it was going to be difficult because I was a Mexican driver, and nobody else made it happen in the past,'' Suarez said. ''Right now, honestly, I can tell that to be a Mexican driver, Latin American driver, is something positive.''

Suarez thanked Nieto for the tweet. He also did interviews Sunday, met with fans and signed autographs before the Sprint Cup season finale.

- Dan Gelston


11:20 a.m.

NASCAR CEO Brian France says he's happy with the health of the sport. Sweating profusely while speaking at his state-of-NASCAR address, France defended sagging ratings and praised his Drive for Diversity program. Mexican driver Daniel Suarez won the Xfinity Series title Saturday night, becoming the first foreigner to win a NASCAR national series championship.

France also refused to talk about President-elect Donald Trump. France endorsed Trump earlier this year and spoke at a rally for the Republican nominee.

France says ''no one wants to hear my political views. I won't be talking about it.''

Speaking four hours before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, France also wished Sprint well. The telecommunications giant is leaving NASCAR after a 13-year run as title sponsor of its top series. France acknowledged that the search for a new sponsor has taken longer than he expected, adding ''we're in a good spot with that, I believe. We'll have to see how it finally plays out.''

Monster Energy has most recently been mentioned as the top contender to replace Sprint.

- Mark Long


11 a.m.

It's NASCAR championship day!

The Sprint Cup champion will be decided Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards are the finalists racing for the title. The best finisher among the four drivers will be the 2016 champion.

Johnson is trying to match Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with a NASCAR-record seven championships. Busch is trying to repeat following his remarkable run to the 2015 title. Logano and Edwards are chasing their first championship.

It's also the final NASCAR race for three-time champion Tony Stewart, who is retiring.

NASCAR CEO Brian France is set to give a state-of-the-sport address before the race. NASCAR crowned its first foreign champion Saturday night, with 24-year-old Mexican Daniel Suarez winning the second-tier Xfinity Series title.

Actors Wilmer Valderrama (honorary starter) and Justin Hartley (grand marshal) are among the celebrities on hand for the finale.

- Dan Gelston


More AP auto racing:


Get more from NASCAR Cup Series Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more

in this topic