What was expected to be a battle for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship lived up to every aspect of the hype.
In some aspects, it went beyond.
Every lap, every corner, and every mistake meant something would change. It came down to who was in front, and who was ready to pounce.
In a race that saw everything from pit road incidents, on-track run-ins and many different emotions, one champion was crowned at the end of 400 miles.
The race itself saw all the Chase contenders endure some kind of trouble. But the one that had to endure the most was the one that entered with the lead.
After qualifying 37th, Denny Hamlin started charging through the field to gain ground on his competitors. But coming out of turn two things began to unravel. Hamlin collided with Greg Biffle and went for a slide in the grass, bending one of the splitter braces.
Emotions were high, but Hamlin calmed down and actually drove his way back to the front, gaining the lead. Late in the race some pit strategy and time to fix the splitter put Hamlin in the back of the pack, despite every effort of trying to lead, including getting some help with a late caution.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Hamlin would come home in 14th, leaving him 36 points out of the championship.
The driver needing the most help was Kevin Harvick as he needed both his fellow competitors to have problems.
He got breaks on pit lane as he gained a lot of spots. Late in the going, he came off pit road as the leader.
But, the radar was on him as NASCAR caught him speeding. Despite efforts of protest by Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin, he would not win and was put back in the pack.
Harvick did rebound however, and would finish third but the race left him 39 points out of a title.
A title that came down to the final laps was won by a driver that had seen the familiar stage the last four years. At the end of the day, the voice on the radio said it all.
"There's your five-time Sprint Cup champion right there," Chad Knaus said on the radio.
"ARE YOU SERIOUS...WOOOOOO!" was the reply by Jimmie Johnson.
Yes, the man that has seemingly dominated the Chase the last four years has added a fifth title to his resume. Despite having trouble on pit road, Johnson kept focused on the big picture. In the end, the No. 48 finished second.
But that runner-up finish was more than enough to secure an unprecedented fifth consecutive championship. A dynasty is secure, and once again, the champ is here.
Our creatures had their picks go across the board, some with strong runs, some with unfortunate ones. After the checkered flag, two writers correctly picked the winner.
Lost in all the championship talk was that Carl Edwards pulled off a dominating performance, leading the most laps and winning his second straight race. While Johnson was burning off the rubber on his tires, Edwards was doing backflips and celebrating with the fans.
What did the win do for the points? Here's a look at the final standings for the 2010 Creature Vs. Creature Writers Pool:
Rob Tiongson (6,573) Carl Edwards WON (4)
Dustin Parks (6,552) Greg Biffle finished 10th (6)
Christopher Leone (6,426) Kevin Harvick finished third (5)
Misan Ayuka (6,366) Mark Martin finished 16th (4)
Billy Fellin (6,351) Carl Edwards WON (6)
Alan Wade (6,333) Greg Biffle finished 10th (3)
Kara Martin (6,322) Clint Bowyer finished 12th (3)
James Broomhead (6,280) Kyle Busch finished 32nd (4)
Kyle Brandt (5,727) NO PICK SENT (2)
So, with his correct pick of Edwards to win and a strong performance in the second half of the Chase, we congratulate Rob Tiongson for winning the pool for the 2010 season.
However, we all are the real winners in this Chase. It was a battle right down to the end, one that no matter who won the title, had to be earned. Every writer had one victory at some point during the season, something that is hard to do by any stretch of the imagination.
But, in the end, one champion can be crowned. For us, the champion is Rob.
For the sport of NASCAR, it's Johnson.
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