Garage chatter: What’s the news?

Nov. 23 news and notes

How much did crash hurt Hamlin? — 10:30 a.m. ET

The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup played out the way I anticipated at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Jimmie Johnson winning his fifth consecutive title.

I really felt like as good as Denny Hamlin, who entered the season finale with the points lead, was and as good as crew chief Mike Ford is, that they could be forced to make a mistake and they did.

The mistake started a week ago at Phoenix International Raceway and it just never really healed itself and I think Denny tried to make up too much ground in too much of a hurry and he got into trouble.

I’m not putting Denny Hamlin down; Denny Hamlin is a fantastic race car driver. Mike Ford is a great crew chief. But I think they fell victim to, No. 1 going up against a four-time champion in Jimmie Johnson and at the same time maybe being in some unchartered waters that kind of came back to get them in trouble.

They clearly got beat. You saw what it was going to take. It was going to take them winning the race to possibly win this thing.

We’ll never know whether or not that possibility could have happened because of the misfortunes that Denny experienced running into Greg Biffle. I just think he had a good race car, he got in a hurry and a little bit of patience would have gone a long way.

— Jeff Hammond

Nov. 22 news and notes

A look at the season finale weekend — 4:30 p.m. ET

The NASCAR Sprint Cup season came to a close with a three-way battle for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend. None of the top three drivers — Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick — had an easy route through the season finale, but in the end it was Johnson who triumphed in the championship race once more.

All three major touring series concluded their seasons at Homestead last weekend, though two of the titles had already been clinched. The third, though, went virtually down to the wire.

In the Camping World Truck Series, the drivers and owners titles were split for the first time. Todd Bodine earned his second career drivers title in the series, while rookie team owner Kyle Busch won the owners crown. Friday night at Homestead, it was all Busch as the driver once more won in the series. Busch earned his 24th career victory in a truck. Bodine, meanwhile, celebrated his latest career achievement.

In the Nationwide Series, it was Busch and an owners title again. Brad Keselowski had already clinched the drivers championship, giving Roger Penske his debut NASCAR title in any series. Busch, though, handed Joe Gibbs the owners title with his win in Saturday’s Ford 300 as Danica Patrick earned her top series’ finish. (Highlights)

Then came Sunday’s main event. Johnson’s pit crew was slow on early stops. Hamlin made contact with Greg Biffle and spun. Harvick was nabbed for speeding on pit road. No one had a perfect race. Well, except Carl Edwards. The Roush Fenway Racing driver took off late in the race to snare his second consecutive Cup victory. Johnson, meanwhile, won his fifth Cup title. (Highlights)

For Johnson, though, this title didn’t come as easy as his previous ones. Hamlin, meanwhile, couldn’t overcome all of his setbacks and settled for Chase runnerup. Johnson’s rally marked the first time in the Chase that a driver had come from behind in the final two races, yet another achievement for the driver.

Several other drivers, though, didn’t have the seasons they had envisioned. Now they’ll head to 2011 carrying winless streaks. See where everyone finished this season.

The championship decided, teams are turning their attention to offseason preparation for 2011 — and the upcoming Champions Week activities. Richard Petty Motorsports confirmed Monday that it would cut from a four-car to a two-car NASCAR Cup program. Among other news items over the weekend, Volkswagen is looking at NASCAR, crew chief Jimmy Elledge is leaving Red Bull Racing, Steve Wallace is hoping to make his Cup debut in the 2011 Daytona 500 and Kasey Kahne is having offseason knee surgery.

There will be more in the coming weeks. Continue to visit for breaking news updates and coverage of the Champions Week festivities in Las Vegas.

— Jorge A. Mondaca and Rea White