Greg Biffle made the move to pass Tony Stewart as the field received the final green flag, and just as Stewart appeared to run out of fuel. The race ended under the green-white-checkered rule as Biffle took the win in the season finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was Biffle's second win this season and the third of his career.
Prior to the final green, Dale Jarrett dived low and off the track when he ran out of fuel in his UPS Ford. Ryan Newman's wall hit with three laps remaining brought out the final caution which extended the total laps for Sunday's race on the 1.5-mile oval.
Jimmie Johnson finished second in a gallant effort to win the race with the hopes that Kurt Busch slid backwards on the final laps. Johnson could taste the championship.
Jeff Gordon had the knowledge and, at times, the opportunity to score his fifth championship, but a series of late-race cautions and bad restarts stole that from him. He finished third.
"That was a wild and crazy last restart," said Gordon. "We had some opportunities there, I don't know if it would have won us the championship. We would have had to win, and I don't even think that would have done it. I am really proud of the guys and what they have done these last ten races to keep us in the chase."
Fourth-place finisher Tony Stewart clawed back from drama of his own to grab his 10th top five of the season. Stewart was leading when NASCAR black- flagged him for cleaning his tires under caution coming out of turn four (a no-no in NASCAR).
He had to come down pit road for a stop and go penalty sending him to the rear of the lead lap. Team 20 found their way back to the front to battle for the lead, but the late race pass by Biffle slipped Stewart backwards.
The 2004 NEXTEL Cup series champion Kurt Busch completed the top five.
"Unbelievable, this is what a team does to win a championship," said the 26- year-old Roush driver on his first career Cup championship. "They run a race like we did today, and like we have all year. I cannot believe it for our team and what we have been through all year. I love this team."
The race started off with a bang as not even one lap was completed before Hermie Sadler and Mike Bliss got together brining out the first yellow flag. Pole sitter Kurt Busch led on the restart at lap five but didn't even get a lap under green before Greg Biffle passed him for the lead and the caution waved again for a multi-car accident involving Jeff Burton, Robby Gordon and Boris Said.
Biffle continued to lead through a caution for debris on lap 48 which brought everyone to the pits for their first round of pit stops. Biffle beat everyone off pit road and remained the leader as his teammate experienced issues.
Kurt Busch began to complain of a vibration at lap 90 and on lap 91 his right front tire fell off the car as Busch approached pit road. That brought out the fourth yellow flag keeping Busch on the lead lap but sending him from second to 27th on the restart.
Biffle led the grid through lap 112 when Jeremy Mayfield blew a right front tire and hit the wall, marking the fifth caution. The No. 16 Ford brought the field into the pits under yellow but a lightning quick two-tire stop by the teams of Ryan Newman and Elliott Sadler put the 12 and the 38 into the 1-2 spot on the restart.
Unfortunately, a low passing rain cloud at lap 117 peppered the track with rain as the field was under caution keeping them slowed until the shower passed. During that caution, on lap 123, Gordon had to come back down pit road due to his left rear tire going flat. The No. 24 Chevy team pitted again under caution to top off, sending them from fourth before the first stop to 27th on the restart on lap 131.
Newman led until lap 145 when Biffle, who took four tires on the last stop, motored past Newman to regain the top spot. Just as Biffle notched the lead, the No. 0 Chevy of Mike Bliss smacked the wall sending out the sixth caution of the race.
The yellow sent the leaders to pit lane for service, but a fuel only stop by Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick and a two-tire stop by Bobby Labonte earned them the top three spots relegating Biffle to fourth on the restart.
Stewart was leading when Sadler spun hitting the wall causing the seventh caution. The leaders decided not to pit under that yellow allowing Stewart to maintain the catbird seat.
The yellow's kept coming as on lap 163 Travis Kvapil and Kasey Kahne made contact marking yellow number eight. Kvapil had help from the No. 8 Chevy of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. causing slight nose damage on the DEI ride.
The field restarted at lap 171 but NASCAR promptly black-flagged leader Stewart for cleaning his tires before the restart. Before Stewart could come down pit road for a pass through penalty the ninth caution flew for debris on the racetrack. The caution kept Stewart on the lead lap but he restarted in 25th spot as Bobby Labonte inherited the lead of the race.
Labonte was overtaken for the lead on lap 184 by Ryan Newman who quickly checked out to half-second advantage. Casey Mears slapping the wall at lap 188 didn't bring out the caution, but Jeff Burton's limping race car shedding debris did on lap 190; marking the day's 10th yellow.
With 76 to go, the leaders came in for service stops except for Mark Martin who did not pit and grabbed the top position. A caution for debris at lap 199 setup stops for the leaders placing Rusty Wallace into the race lead.
Fuel mileage strategy began to play out as Gordon, Johnson, Earnhardt and Busch all topped off in an attempt to make it to the end on fuel but sent them all to the mid-twenties in position.
Wallace led the field to the restart on lap 207 and had the lead through lap 224, when the 12th yellow unfurled as Jeff Green lost the engine in the No. 43 Dodge. Newman emerged the leader once again after pit stops followed by Stewart, Dale Jarrett and Gordon on the restart with 36 to go.
This time Newman did not check out on the field as Stewart battled the No. 12 Dodge for the lead door-to-door, finally passing Newman on lap 237 but the No. 12 would not be denied fighting back past the No. 20 Chevy within five laps.
Lucky 13 came out at lap 252 when Martin Truex, Jr. hit the wall bunching up the championship hopefuls. At the yellow, Gordon was fourth, Johnson fifth, and Busch seventh.
The field restarted with 11 to go with Newman leading but with five to go he cut down a right front tire hitting the wall and taking him out of competition for the victory. That allowed Stewart accede to the lead.
The 14th caution set up a green/white/checker finish to determine not only the victor but the 2004 champion. At the restart the championship contenders sat in a row, with Gordon fourth, Johnson fifth and Busch sixth.
Under caution, the third place car of Dale Jarrett ran out of gas bumping everyone up one spot. Biffle shot past Stewart for the lead with three to go, as Johnson rocketed around Gordon for second.
In the end no one had the horsepower to catch Biffle as he sailed to victory in the No. 16 Ford. As Biffle crossed the start/finish line, Busch rallied to stay within spitting distance of Gordon and Johnson to win the 2004 Chase for the Championship by just eight points.
There were a track record 14 cautions for 79 laps and 14 lead changes among seven drivers.