What's the difference between being crowned a champion and just being one of the guys who fell short? Check out the defining moments of the 2010 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Photo: Rusty Jarrett
With no wins (and no bonus points) to his credit entering the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Burton bet it all on a fuel gamble to start the postseason at New Hampshire. Unfortunately, the ploy failed on the last lap, resulting in a 15th-place finish and creating a points hole from which he never was able to escape. Photo: Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America
Could Busch’s title Chase have been doomed from the very beginning? Questions dogged his crew chief Steve Addington (left) when he was with brother Kyle’s team up until this year, with suggestions that he can’t step up his game when it counts most. With Kurt, a former Chase champion, earning only two top-10 finishes this postseason, those questions won’t subside.
This year’s Chase started like a fairytale for Bowyer, but winning at New Hampshire was a turning point in the opposite direction after his car failed a postrace inspection. Had Bowyer finished in the top five instead of winning, he might have avoided the inspection, and the 150-point hit that crushed his 2010 title hopes.
Race 1 of the Chase defined Gordon’s year perfectly: He was good early in the event, but faded late and missed out on Victory Lane. Another winless campaign (his second in three years) for Gordon puts a quick end to the “Drive for Five.”
Busch’s talent was once again on display this year in all forms of NASCAR racing. But his explosive temper, which was on display at Texas when a one-lap penalty for speeding on pit road led to a two-lap sit down when he flipped the bird at an official, once again showed that he is still a long way away from having what it takes to be a Sprint Cup champion. Photo: Rusty Jarrett
Smoke had a mini mid-Chase surge – including a win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana – but his collapse in Charlotte (early damage, bad pit stops) was the defining point in his postseason. Photo: Chris Trotman
Traditionally a Roush Fenway Racing stomping ground, Fontana proved to be the downfall for many of its racers’ title hopes. Such was the case for Biffle, who had an engine failure that led to a 41st-place finish which dropped him to more than 200 points off the title leader's pace at that time.
After a slow start a week earlier, Kenseth was on the verge of a comeback at Dover. But tire problems turned a likely top-five day into a midpack result, and the points gap was too large after that.
More mechanical issues at Auto Club Speedway for Roush Fenway Racing doomed another one of its drivers. For Edwards, a broken distributor led to his worst finish of the Chase (34th) – a result he could never recover from. Photo: John Harrelson
Sometimes being the best just isn’t good enough. Such was the case for Harvick, who had the best average finish of all drivers in the Chase (5.8). But numerous pit-road woes, including a speeding penalty in the season finale, cost him the opportunity to earn valuable bonus points for leading. And those bonus points played a major difference in this year’s Chase. Photo: Jerry Markland
It’s easy to say that having to pit late for fuel at Phoenix while his competitors were able to stay out until the finish cost Hamlin. But look back to a week earlier, when the No. 11 team won in Texas and crew chief Mike Ford (left) made critical comments of rival Team 48. That inspired Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and Co., and cost Hamlin and his team as they stumbled in the final two races. Photo: Todd Warshaw
Who says NASCAR is not a team sport? Slow pit stops became Johnson’s Achilles' heel several times this season. But a crew swap at Texas, when crew chief Chad Knaus borrowed teammate Jeff Gordon’s crew after Gordon was knocked out of the race by an accident, led to improved results on pit road the rest of that race and the final two races, helping Johnson bounce back to win a record fifth straight Sprint Cup championship.