Joey Logano was quickest in qualifying to qualify on the pole but a late practice crash forced him to switch to a backup car and drop to the rear of the field for the start. That moved the third place qualifier, and point leader, Brad Keselowski up to the number one starting position for the start of the race.
Marcos Ambrose qualified second and started from the outside of the front row. Aric Almirola moved up to start from the inside of row number two and Carl Edwards started behind Ambrose in row two.
Drop Of The Green
When the green flag flew on the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season Brad Keselowski got a terrible start which allowed Marcos Ambrose to gap the field into turn one. Keselowski quickly fell back to fourth and missed his chance to pick up a bonus point for leading a lap.
The field fell into a single-file running order pretty quickly. Kyle Busch was on the move early and he took his turn at the head of the field when he moved past Ambrose on lap 15. Busch ran away from the field opening up a huge lead and dominating the rest of the early going.
Brad Keselowski settled into the fifth spot as Jimmie Johnson remained near his tenth place starting spot. Johnson was not moving up in the opening laps.
The 2012 Ford EcoBoost 400 started with a long green flag run all the way through the first round of green flag pit stops. We first saw the caution flag on lap 78 of the scheduled 267 lap distance.
The Championship was the only story of the day. Brad Keselowski came into this race with a twenty point lead over Jimmie Johnson. This meant that if Keselowski finished fifteenth or better there was nothing Johnson could do to beat him.
Just past halfway Jimmie Johnson took the lead while Keselowski was back in the pack. On lap 150 the points were tied. Since Jimmie Johnson has more 2012 wins than Brad Keselowski then at that point Jimmie Johnson would have been the Champion.
For Johnson fans the pleasure was short lived as Brad Keselowski moved up from his spot deep in the pack and regained the point lead.
With 62 laps to go Brad Keselowski ran out of gas on the race track while Jimmie Johnson was leading. Keselowski hit pit road quickly for four tires and fuel but didn't lose nearly as much time on the track as he might have. When Keselowski returned to the track he was second in the standings seven points behind Johnson for the title.
Johnson then hit the pits a few laps later from the lead for his final stop of 2012. Unfortunately they didn't get all the lug nuts on and had to return to the pits to fix it. This was a critical mistake late in the race which effectively ended their championship. From that point on Keselowski never trailed in the points and went on to claim his first career Sprint Cup title.
This was a rare mistake by Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports crew. These guys have been rock solid all year long but this mistake came at the worst possible time and ended the 2012 Chase.
A few laps later, if there was any doubt left, the 2012 Chase for the Cup came to a close as Jimmie Johnson burned up the rearend gear and was pushed to the garage.
Johnson lost second place in points as Clint Bowyer moved past him for second in points in the closing laps.
With forty laps to go Brad Keselowski won the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Chasing The Checkers
With the Championship settled the focus returned to the battle on the track.
Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. had been putting on a great show at the front. These two passed the lead back and forth a number of times. Kyle Busch seemed to have the advantage in the closing laps but Truex wasn't going away until he slapped the outside wall and fell back.
Kyle Busch lead the most laps during the race and had a big lead when he had to hit pit road for fuel with twelve laps to go.
Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer took over the top spot trying to stretch their fuel to the end and steal the win. They both had enough and Jeff Gordon picked the win with excellent pit strategy even though Kyle Busch had been the car to beat.
- Jeff Gordon
- Clint Bowyer
- Ryan Newman
- Kyle Busch
- Greg Biffle
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Aric Almirola
- Kevin Harvick
- Kurt Busch
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Even though it was over long before the end Brad Keselowski ended the night in fifteenth place which was exactly what he needed to do to close out Johnson.
Clint Bowyer's second place effort was good enough to move him past Johnson for second place in the standings.
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings: