"What we did over the last five years was absolutely spectacular," said Johnson after the race. "I'm definitely disappointed that we won't be able to go to Homestead and race for our sixth, but that's motorsports. It's a very tough business."
Keselowski dropped a lap off the lead with his final stop and finished 18th place, just one ahead of Kevin Harvick. In terms of championship points that left Keselowski in fourth place, 65pts off Edwards; and Harvick in third place with 51pts. With less than 50pts available per race, that means that Harvick is also now formally eliminated from title contention, as are Kurt Busch after his fuel issue, underperforming Hendrick duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth after his clash with Vickers.
And then there was Kyle Busch, who would have been hoping for an inconspicuous, uneventful day at the office after being in the eye of the 'parking' storm at Texas. Even his #18 car looked in disguise, stripped of the distinctive, colourful livery of sponsors M&Ms who wanted to put some distance between themselves and NASCAR's bad boy for the remainder of the season.
Busch had to start from the back of the grid after needing an engine change in Friday practice following what was described as a 'human error' by the crew. Despite that, he'd worked himself up to the front and at one point was running in third place, but then on lap 187 he suddenly dropped low down the track and radioed in that his car was blowing up - the replacement engine had gone the way of its predecessor. "No indication this time," Kyle said afterwards. "Catastrophic engine failure ... It's terrible to have one in a weekend, let alone two."
So with everyone else now out of the running and just three points between them, it's wide open as to whether Edwards or Stewart will be crowned champion this time next week.
"Homestead is going to be a lot of fun, I really enjoy racing there," said Edwards, who has an impressive record of results at the Miami speedway. "I don't know that there is a better place to go than Homestead to fight for this championship."
"We'll just keep doing what we're doing," insisted Stewart, whose Homestead record is rather less than rock solid. "We have a third and two wins in the last three races so we're going to keep the pressure on him and we'll make him sweat it out."
As for the outgoing champion, Jimmie Johnson, he admitted that one upside of being out of contention for the 2011 title was that he would be a lot less stressed about the final race of the season for once: "I'll definitely have more fun and get a lot of sleep going in there. I'll bet you the #99 and the #14 won't!
"I'll have fun watching from the sidelines," he added.
Full race results and times