As if the championship battle heading into Phoenix wasn't tight enough, after the checkered flag fell the battle only got better.
This was a race that was all about being in the right position at the right time, and it came down to fuel mileage. Fans may not love those kind of races but because of what came of it, there's no doubt they are loving what's happening.
Denny Hamlin, the dominant driver all day long, had to pit with a few laps remaining for fuel. He tried everything to get back to the front, hoping for a caution. But it never came.
He would finish 12th, a far cry from where he hoped.
At the checkered flag, Hamlin began punching the dash, tossing a water bottle to his car, all in anger and disappointment. The points lead entering the weekend was 33 points; now it sits at 15.
"We were sitting pretty," Hamlin said on pit road.
What it also meant was that both Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson could gain ground in the championship hunt. Johnson came home fifth, with Harvick in sixth. It means that Homestead will be the most intense championship battle since the Chase began.
As if all that wasn't enough, the fuel mileage gamble for Hamlin paid dividends for another driver.
The winner on this day was Carl Edwards, ending a winless streak dating back to Homestead in 2008, a race that also came down to fuel mileage.
It capped off a perfect weekend for Edwards. He led all the practice sessions, won the pole for the Nationwide and Cup races, won the Nationwide race Saturday, and then ended his streak on Sunday.
It's the third win of the year for Jack Roush and Ford, which gives the organization a lot of momentum coming into 2011. There may be no championship for Roush this year but the second half of the season has been great for the Roush-Fenway camp.
As for our creatures, it wasn't a perfect weekend by any means. At the same time, a majority of them had a good outing with all but one scoring a top-10 finish.
Here's how the writers stack up following the Kobalt Tools 500:
Dustin Parks (6,418) Mark Martin finished eighth (6)
Rob Tiongson (6,378) Mark Martin finished eighth (3)
Christopher Leone (6,256) Mark Martin finished eighth (5)
Misan Ayuka (6,251) Ryan Newman finished second (4)
James Broomhead (6,213) Mark Martin finished eighth (4)
Alan Wade (6,199) Kyle Busch finished 13th (3)
Kara Martin (6,195) Mark Martin finished eighth (3)
Billy Fellin (6,156) Joey Logano finished third (5)
Kyle Brandt (5,727) NO PICK SENT (2)
NEXT RACE: After 35 grueling weeks spanning 10 months of the year, it has come down to one final weekend of action.
The season has experienced some of its most incredible action NASCAR has seen in years from the wrecks to the confrontations, the surprises and the excitement. Drivers have left quotes that still echo in our minds to this day, while others let their actions do the talking.
Now, one race will decide the final race winner of the 2010 Sprint Cup season, and the 2010 champion.
We all have our own championship to decide. Creatures, this is the final weekend of our pool. A champion will be crowned after Homestead, and it will be very well earned.
I ask that you have your picks for the final race of the year, the Ford 400, sent by Thursday, November 18, at 7 p.m.