It was the closest finish to the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship for years, but in the end the winner was the same one the series has had every year since 2006 - Jimmie Johnson once again reigned supreme.
In the series' 62 seasons, Johnson is the only driver to win five consecutive titles and only the third driver in its history to win five or more in their career - Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt each won seven. Johnson won his fifth championship in his ninth full-time season, while Petty's fifth came in his 16th season and Earnhardt in his 13th. In his Sprint Cup career to date, Johnson has never finished outside the top five at the end of the year.
Despite the return of pit stop problems for the #48, Johnson was able to run comfortably toward the front of the field for much of the race at Homestead. Once again he demonstrated his ability to be Mr Consistency through the final ten-race Chase sequence, ending the season with nine consecutive top ten finishes - the secret of his enduring success.
Kevin Harvick also had a strong race and finished just behind Johnson in third place, but came into the race too far behind on points to have a realistic chance of the title as long as Johnson was still running strongly. Neither Johnson nor Harvick had the raw speed to challenge a dominant Carl Edwards for the race win itself, however, and Edwards finishes the season with back-to-back victories, his 18th Sprint Cup career win as well as clinching fourth place in the championship.
Denny Hamlin had gone into the series finale ahead on points, but his race was disastrously compromised on lap 24 when contact with Greg Biffle sent him spinning through the infield, which resulted in front-end damage to the nose and spitter of the #11. While the pit crew were able to patch up the damage over a succession of pit stops through the afternoon, his handling was affected and he was never a serious threat to Johnson on the track. A deflating tyre added to his woes, and later a missed pit call and going a lap down in the closing stages left him struggling even to hold on to second place in the championship against Harvick.
Harvick's biggest scare of the afternoon came on lap 243 when he made contact with the previous day's Nationwide race winner, Kyle Busch. Busch was put into the wall and the #18 caught fire, with Kyle having to be pulled clear by NASCAR track staff.
Full race results and final Sprint Cup standings