The season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was a fitting conclusion to the Chase for the Sprint Cup and indeed the entire 2010 NASCAR season. Carl Edwards won the race, while Jimmie Johnson made a dramatic rally to finish second and become the first driver in 18 years to win the championship in the last race of the season.
In the process, Johnson also became the only man in history to win five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships and joins Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt as the only three men with at least five Sprint Cup championships.
Here’s how the top 12 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season ended their seasons:
1. JIMMIE JOHNSON, Hendrick Motorsports, 2nd place in the race — Despite a couple of shaky 15+ second pit stops with his replacement over-the-wall crew, Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports crew came on strong over the final third of the race to cement both the fifth consecutive title and Johnson’s place in history. You have to respect the accomplishment, as he made up ground in each of the last two races to win the title. Mission accomplished for Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports squad. 6,622 points.
2. DENNY HAMLIN, Joe Gibbs Racing, 14th — In reality, Hamlin’s title hopes basically ended on Lap 24, when he exited Turn 2 and drifted up into Greg Biffle’s Ford. From there on, crew chief Mike Ford spent most of the rest of the race trying to find the handle on Hamlin’s damaged Toyota. It wasn’t enough as a series-high eight race victories was the consolation prize.6,583 points.
3. KEVIN HARVICK, Richard Childress Racing, 3rd — Harvick overcame a pit-road speeding penalty to score a third-place finish, which gave him the best finishing average of any driver in the Chase. Harvick made a heroic run and came up a little short, but it was the closest RCR has come to a title in the last decade. 6,581 points.
4. CARL EDWARDS, Roush Fenway Racing, 1st — What a finish for Edwards, who ended the year with two consecutive victories after going 70 races without winning once. For the second time in three years, Edwards won the Ford 400, only to watch Johnson take the championship. 6,393 points.
5. MATT KENSETH, Roush Fenway Racing, 9th — Like most of his fellow Roush Fenway teammates, Kenseth ended the year strong, scoring three consecutive top-10 finishes. The entire Roush Fenway organization should be encouraged by their late-season speed. 6,294 points.
6. GREG BIFFLE, Roush Fenway Racing, 10th — After his early race contretemps with Hamlin, Biffle recovered to score his third consecutive top 10, after top fives at Phoenix and Texas in the prior two weeks. 6,247 points.
7. TONY STEWART, Stewart-Haas Racing, 8th — The two-time champion had a solid day at Homestead, which allowed him to pick up two positions in the final Sprint Cup points standings. All in all, an excellent second season for SHR.6,221 points.
8. KYLE BUSCH, Joe Gibbs Racing, 32nd — Busch slid in front of Harvick on the frontstretch on Lap 243 and Harvick dumped him into the wall when he did. Asked what happened, Harvick said “He raced me like a clown all day.” 6,182 points.
9. JEFF GORDON, Hendrick Motorsports, 37th — The first engine failure of the year meant that Gordon finished 37th for the second time in three races, as he fell from fourth to ninth in the final three races of the year. 6,176 points.
10. CLINT BOWYER, Richard Childress Racing, 12th — It was a good, not great, final race for Bowyer, who can take away from the season that he had two race victories in the Chase. 6,155 points.
10. KURT BUSCH, Penske Racing, 18th — Every time you looked up, it seemed, the car in front of Busch was hitting the wall, and he was, too, trying to avoid them. Busch had just one top-10 finish in the final seven races, and that was a ninth. 6,142 points.
12. JEFF BURTON, Richard Childress Racing, 31st — Somebody had to finish last in the Chase, and it was Burton, who bounced off the wall to finish 31st or worse for the third time in the final four races. 6,033 points.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.