Denny Hamlin may have taken victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, but Jimmie Johnson rewrote the record books with a fifth place finish that secured an unprecedented fourth successive title.
Johnson went into the race needing to finish inside the top 25 to secure the title and led the opening lap to pick up five bonus points that then left him needed to take 27th or better to beat Hendrick team-mate Mark Martin to the title.
The defending champion led through the opening ten laps of the race before briefly being passed by Marcos Ambrose, but quickly returned to the front of the field to lead through to lap 33.
While the #46 Chevrolet wouldn't lead again, Johnson was able to stay out of trouble to run in or around the top ten throughout to secure the result he needed to take his place in NASCAR history.
Johnson's title success overshadowed a fine performance from Hamlin, who picked up his fourth victory of the season in the final round of the year. Having hit the front for the first time on lap 158 after winning the race off pitroad following the fifth caution of the race, Hamlin battled at the front of the field and retook the lead for the final time on lap 223.
From there, the race was Hamlin's to lose but it never looked like happening as he came home ahead of Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick. Kurt Busch had to settle for fourth having gambled on taking just two tyres on his final stop ahead of Johnson and Jeff Gordon – with his top six finish securing third in the standings ahead of Kurt Busch and a lock-out of the top three places in the championship for Rick Hendrick's team.
For Martin, the title was always going to be a tall order and the veteran was unable to challenge for the victory he needed as he eventually came home in twelfth place, leaving him as series runner-up for the fifth time in his long career.
The race itself featured no fewer than seven cautions, with the two most controversial involving Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya.
The pair touched on lap 115 while fighting for position and Montoya then ended up in the wall with a punctured tyre after futher contract between the pair, with the Colombian forced to pit and go behind the wall for repairs.
Having returned to the race 28 laps down, Montoya was soon fighting with Stewart again on track and having just been warned by officials that 'enough was enough', Montoya tipped Stewart into a spin on lap 155 to bring out another caution and earn himself a black-flag for driving standards.
Stewart would eventually finish down in 22nd place while Montoya was classified 38th as the penultimate driver still running at the flag.
Homestead Miami – Top ten:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Jeff Burton
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kurt Busch
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Carl Edwards
8. Kyle Busch
9. Martin Truex Jr
10. AJ Allmendinger
12. Mark Martin