Well, it happened again.
Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus won yet another championship, putting them at five in a row. Somebody else came close, but no cigar. Somebody else, who would have won the title under the old format, got robbed. And death, taxes and sunrise remain constants of our everyday life.
So it goes.
Now that the season's over, the points are tallied, and the 2011 predictions are already flying around in some circles, let's take one last look at the 11 Chasers who, yet again, failed to dethrone the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut. (Oh, and I guess we can look at them too. Why not?)
I still think the Chase is a joke. It will only become more of one if Brian France adjusts the start times of races yet again and performs another points reset in the final couple of races. And I still think that Johnson has become somewhat of an unintended beneficiary of a non-revolving schedule, as many of the tracks in the Chase are his best. I still think Kevin Harvick was this year's true champion.
But it doesn't take away everything from his accomplishment. Johnson and Chad Knaus took advantage of a shaken Denny Hamlin and didn't lose their cool. They got in his head and they did exactly what they needed to do to bring home a fifth-consecutive Chase title.
Yes, the format may have its flaws, but they've got it down. And the rest of the racing world had better figure it out if they want to see a different champion anytime soon.
Harvick and his team deserves all the credit in the world for 2010. Even on bad days, they almost always managed to pull out a solid finish. In the olden days of...2003...that would be more than enough to win a title (which he would have done this year by 285 points under the old system).
Not only that, Happy endeared himself to thousands this weekend by parking Kyle Busch. This has all the makings of what should be a great feud in 2011. Both are Sprint Cup contenders who own the top of the standings—either as driver or owner—in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. It could be an expensive year for them both next year if their respective drivers start getting into it in the feeder series. And that would be plenty of fun.
Sunday was just painful to watch. I picked Kevin Harvick for the title, but internally, I was kind of hoping Hamlin would pull it off. He had the prerequisite confidence after the victory at Texas, but he let it all go to hell after the pit stop in Phoenix.
Champions don't do that. They don't let that get in their way. They come out the next weekend by winning the pole and mercilessly beating on the competition.
Denny will challenge next year, for sure, but this was supposed to be his year, and he let it slip.
Not a bad way to end the season, eh? Breaking a 70-race winless drought in the Cup with two in a row?
Carl showed flashes of brilliance all Chase, easily asserting himself as the best of the rest after Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle faltered. With that in mind, he'll contend in 2011. (And judging by the way Denny Hamlin's end-of-season tear affected pundits' predictions last year, people will think of him as more than a mere contender for next year. Expect Carl to get some preseason title picks.)
The top Chaser not to win a race, Kenseth ended the year with seven finishes of 16th or better in the final eight races. Then again, that doesn't mean all that much—how are you supposed to contend for the title when the top three drivers alone have won 17 of a possible 36 races?
But judging by the way that Roush Fenway came on in the final portion of the season, Kenseth should do a little more than sneak into the Chase next time around.
Biffle's main Chase issue was consistency. He could have a fantastic weekend running up front, and then he would follow it up with a finish outside the top 30. Hell, that happened twice. By the time that he and the team finally got it together for a few races in a row, the Chase was over. So it goes.
Smoke broke a five-race streak of finishes outside the top 10 with his eighth-place run at Homestead. That was all well and good, but the real shame is that Sunday marked the final instance of Old Spice on the quarter panels of his No. 14 car. Perhaps one of the best-marketed brands in the country, it is ending an 11-year relationship with Stewart, and we lament that. On the bright side, next year's Office Depot/Mobil 1 paint schemes look pretty sweet.
^%#@%$#%!$@#@$#^%@#$%$@...you get the idea.
Odds of Jimmie Johnson asking for his old crew back next season: 5:1
Odds of Jeff Gordon responding "nuh-uh, no tradebacks" in that situation: 1:4
Odds of anything going wrong being blamed on Steve Letarte: Bets off.
The other victim of a mid-Chase pit-crew swap (the first victim actually), Bowyer managed to convert his Chase into a decent run even with the 150-point penalty and suspension for crew chief Shane Wilson. Sans penalty, he'd have been fifth in points. The fact that he made the top 10 anyway is remarkable.
Just like his car numbers, Roger Penske's points performances in professional motorsport this year were all 1s and 2s.
Will Power finished the IZOD IndyCar Series in second after losing the title at Homestead. In Nationwide, Brad Keselowski took the No. 1 spot long before the green even dropped at Homestead. Meanwhile, in Sprint Cup, Kurt Busch finished...11th.
Great. Way to keep up the number trend, Kurt. At least it wasn't 12th.
If you've been reading these things the past few weeks, you probably know by now my familiar refrain: "I keep forgetting that Jeff Burton is in the Chase." You would too if you realized that the guy only finished better than ninth once during the Chase. That's going out with a whimper if I've ever seen it.
The final insult: a 31st-place finish at Homestead (to match the car number!) and teammate Kevin Harvick requesting all of his tires so he could continue to get fresh rubber under every caution. So much for the three RCR cars all contending for Chase glory.
That's all I've got for this year on these guys, folks. Have a restful offseason and just remember—Daytona is never as far away as you think it is.