Ranking the best Homestead championship drama of the playoff era

With NASCAR scheduled to race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend, it brought back memories of all the championship moments at the track. So I ranked them, from the start of the Chase for the Nextel Cup era through 2019.

Here we go:

16. 2008: Johnson cruise No. 3

Jimmie Johnson entered the race with a 141-point lead on Carl Edwards (old points system where the top spot was 10-point interval, then it went to five-point intervals, decreasing to four and three the further down the field). Edwards won the race, but Johnson cruised to a 15th-place finish and won the title by 69 points.

15. 2009: Johnson cruise No. 4

See a pattern here already? Johnson entered the finale with a 108-point lead on Mark Martin. Johnson finished fifth, easily winning his fourth title.

14. 2005: Stewart with ease

Tony Stewart entered the race with a 52-point cushion on Jimmie Johnson, who at the time was some young driver looking for his first championship. Johnson crashed and Stewart finished 15th to win the title with a 35-point edge on Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.

13. 2006: Johnson begins streak

There were five drivers who had a mathematical shot to win the title, but the closest driver entering the race was Matt Kenseth at 63 points behind. Johnson did run over debris early in the race, causing some damage, but he easily piloted his car to a ninth-place finish to earn his first championship by a 56-point edge on Kenseth.

12. 2007: No win needed for Johnson

Jimmie Johnson won four consecutive races to enter Homestead with an 86-point lead on teammate Jeff Gordon. Johnson finished seventh, capping an incredible Chase where his average finish was 5.0.

11. 2012: Good Brad

Brad Keselwoski wins the title easily as Jimmie Johnson, who entered the race 20 points behind Keselowski (in the second year where each spot was pretty much worth one point), has to drop out with a rear gear problem. Keselowski finished 15th.

10. 2013: Johnson cruise No. 6

Denny Hamlin won this race but this day belonged to Jimmie Johnson, who had gone so long — two seasons! — without a championship. Johnson had entered the race with a 28-point cushion on Kenseth. Johnson and Kenseth actually made contact on a restart, but Johnson was able to have his fender repaired. He rallied to finish ninth and still won the title by 19 points over Kenseth, who finished second.

9. 2019: Kyle Busch no collapse

Kyle Busch won maybe the least dramatic of the playoff races since the final four concept began in 2014. A miscue on a pit stop with wrong tires on wrong sides ruined the day for Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin’s team put too big a piece of tape on the grille, and Kevin Harvick’s team just didn’t have the speed.

8. 2010: Johnson comeback

Jimmie Johnson’s comeback to win his fifth consecutive title started a week earlier when Hamlin’s team misplayed the fuel mileage game at Phoenix, costing him several spots. Johnson entered the race 15 points behind Hamlin (and Kevin Harvick was just 46 points back), but Hamlin was already beat mentally. Johnson finished second to win the title by 39 points over Hamlin (14th).

7. 2015: Kyle Busch unbroken

Kyle Busch missed the first 11 races of the season with a broken leg and broken foot suffered in an Xfinity Series accident at Daytona. He won four races early in his return but had not won in 15 races before Homestead, where he made a pass on a restart with seven laps to go to capture his first title.

6. 2018: Joey Logano moves

On the final restart with 15 laps to go, the four championship contenders were 1-2-3-4. Joey Logano was third behind Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Truex took the lead on the restart but two laps later, Logano made the pass on him and it was game over.

5. 2017: Truex triumph

Martin Truex Jr. proved a single-car team – with a strong alliance – could win the title, as he outlasted Kyle Busch by 0.681 seconds. It was an emotional scene, as his long-time partner Sherry Pollex had spent much of the season battling ovarian cancer.

4. 2014: Happy days

Kevin Harvick wins the first of the knockout style, best-finisher-among-final-four-wins title races at Homestead. He survived a restart with three laps to go as Ryan Newman – who had not won all year – finished second.

3. 2004: First Chase

The end of the first Chase format championship was dynamic, with three drivers within 21 points of each other (Kurt Busch was up 18 on Jimmie Johnson and 21 on Jeff Gordon) and a total of five with a shot at the title. Kurt Busch nearly crashed as a vibration forced him to pit road, where a wheel came off his car just before he entered. He rallied to finish fifth, while Johnson was second and Gordon third, leaving Busch eight points ahead of Johnson (two spots in the finishing order) and 16 in front of Gordon.

2. 2016: Johnson No. 7

A Carl Edwards-Joey Logano crash on a late restart helped open the door for Jimmie Johnson to win the race and the title, his record-tying seventh. Edwards retired about six weeks later.

1. Smoke triumph

When the 2011 Chase started, Tony Stewart said he wouldn’t include himself among the favorites. Then he won five races, including the finale at Homestead to capture the title in dramatic fashion. Entering the race three points behind Edwards in the first year of the points system where a spot was worth a point but a win was worth a couple of bonus points, Stewart overcame early troubles with a hole in his grille and rallied through the field. He used pit strategy to gain the lead and then he was able to save fuel after he pitted thanks to a 17-lap caution for rain. He then outlasted Edwards, who sat on the pole and had led a race-high 119 laps. Stewart tied Edwards in overall points (leading the most laps had earned Edwards an extra point) and the five wins gave Stewart the tiebreaker and the title, the third of his career.