Jimmie Johnson claimed his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title at Homestead despite a valiant effort by championship rival Matt Kenseth, as Denny Hamlin won.
Johnson entered the final race of the season with a 28-point advantage over Kenseth, whose challenge for the title suffered a setback after a disastrous outing at Phoenix last weekend.
Possessing a virtually insurmountable margin, Hendrick Chevrolet driver Johnson only had to finish in the top 23 in order to claim the 2013 championship, irrespective of Kenseth’s performance. Starting seventh, Johnson ran as high as second in the opening phase of the race before settling on fifth, where he ran solidly until things went awry on lap 193 of 267.
Following a restart for debris clean-up, Johnson found himself in the mix and had an encounter with Kenseth, which dropped him from eighth to 23rd.
Having only suffered body damage to the left front fender, Johnson began filtering his way through the field and — despite a further caution period interrupting his recovery drive — he eventually finished ninth to claim this year’s title.
Hamlin took the checkered flag, his first win of the season after dominating the second half of the race, having fended off both Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr for much of the afternoon.
Kenseth led from pole and only lost his command of the race on lap 167 when Hamlin took his first turn at the front of the field.
Earnhardt soon demoted Kenseth to third, but the Job Gibbs Racing driver finally reclaimed second with 20 laps remaining and held off his Hendrick Racing rival until the finish.
Martin Truex Jr came home fourth in his last outing for Michael Waltrip Racing, ahead of Clint Bowyer and outgoing champion Brad Keselowski.
Kevin Harvick, who was mathematically still in with a shout of the title, claimed 10th after almost going a lap down at one point, but was saved when Danica Patrick caused a caution period on lap 116.
After 31 seasons, veteran Mark Martin signed off by claiming 19th position, behind IndyCar-bound Juan-Pablo Montoya, who had made his Cup debut at Homestead in 2006.
Results - 267 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota 3h03m52.000s 2. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +0.800s 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +1.309s 4. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +1.856s 5. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +6.687s 6. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +7.915s 7. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +8.045s 8. Joey Logano Penske Ford +8.139s 9. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +8.262s10. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +9.140s11. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +9.541s12. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford +10.959s13. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +11.424s14. Elliott Sadler Waltrip Toyota +12.901s15. Kyle Larson Phoenix Chevrolet +12.951s16. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +13.435s17. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +16.076s18. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +16.208s19. Mark Martin Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +16.646s20. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +21.417s21. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +25.076s22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +25.835s23. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +26.258s24. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +27.026s25. Parker Kligerman Swan Toyota +28.587s26. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +34.368s27. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +1 lap28. Casey Mears Germain Ford +1 lap29. David Ragan Front Row Ford +1 lap30. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +2 laps31. David Reutimann BK Toyota +2 laps32. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet +3 laps33. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet +3 laps34. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford +4 laps35. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota +4 laps36. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Toyota +10 laps37. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +19 laps38. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +25 lapsRetirements: Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 229 laps Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 223 laps Josh Wise Front Row Ford 119 laps Tony Raines Hillman Chevrolet 104 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 63 laps