HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag but Jimmie Johnson grabbed the biggest trophy of the night.
Kenseth raced to his 16th career win in Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season-ending Ford 400, while Johnson captured his second consecutive championship with a seventh-place finish.
Kenseth scored his second win of the season outracing Kurt Busch to score the win in the season finale at the 1.5-mile superspeedway.
Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five.
Despite the fourth place finish, Gordon wasn't able to close the gap of Johnson's point lead, which stood at 86 entering the race.
When Johnson crossed the start-finish line seventh, he owned a 77 point margin in the final standings.
"Last year was an amazing season and to come back this year and not lose anything over the off season and get this opportunity to win it again, I can't thanks these guys enough," Johnson said. "I can't believe all the success I've been able to achieve. It's awesome stuff."
The last driver to win back-to-back Cup titles was Gordon in 1997-98.
"Everything came together, we're rocking," said Johnson who rode a four race winning streak into Sunday's season finale. "We stayed focused on the right things and got the job done. I can't thank Jeff Gordon enough, too, for helping me get this job and I can't thank (Rick Hendrick enough, too.
"We knew what we were up against and we were up against the best in the business. We got it and finished 1-2 in points and did all that we could. Hopefully, we come back again next year and do it again."
The championship was the seventh Cup title for the Hendrick organization.
"It's a testament to these guys and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports," said Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief. "It was a great day and man, I can't wait for Daytona.
"We were fortunate enough to sit on the pole. I wish we could have been more aggressive and gone for the win but you have to do what you can to win the championship."
Gordon was the first person in victory lane to congratulate his teammate Johnson on the title.
"We knew it wasn't about tonight," Gordon said. "If we performed the last four weeks like tonight it might have been a different outcome. But with the way those guys stepped it up we got behind and came in here with an 86-point deficit and couldn't catch Jimmie.
"It's bittersweet. We had a great year with top 10s and top fives and got beat. It's an awesome year but we got beat. It will make us hungrier this off-season. Let's get them next year."
Kenseth's victory was also somewhat bittersweet as it was the Wisconsin native's last race with long-time crew chief Robbie Reiser, who will move up to the General Manager role at Roush-Fenway Racing next season.
Kenseth had to sweat out a battery problem early in the race as well as a possible flat tire in the closing laps, but had enough to get his DeWalt Tools Ford to the start-finish line 0.852-second ahead of Busch.
"We lost a lot of close races this year, so it feels good to win a close one," said Kenseth, who finished the season with top-five finishes in the season's final five races. "It was a pretty dominating day. It's cool going out with a win, but Robbie's not going far. He's going to help all of us at Roush Fenway Racing."
Martin Truex, Jr., Johnson, Jeff Burton, Mark martin and David Ragan completed the first ten finishers.
There were 25 lead changes among 11 drivers and seven caution periods for 32 laps.
Kenseth won at an average speed of 131.881 miles per hour.