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Edwards pushed it to the limit, knowing he had to win the race, lead the most laps and pray for Johnson to have some trouble to win his first title. But he was a gracious runner-up, and after his trademark celebratory backflip, he walked over to Johnson's passing car on the track to congratulate him.
"At least we can lay our heads down tonight and know we won some races and just got beaten by a true champion," Edwards said.
It was the second straight night Edwards won the race, yet still came up empty in the championship bid. He won Saturday night's Nationwide Series event, but came up 21 points short of champion Clint Bowyer.
Edwards' win Sunday chopped 72 points off of Johnson's margin and he was optimistic as he crossed the finish line, radioing his Roush Fenway Racing team "we'll definitely get them next year."
Kevin Harvick finished second and was followed by Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon, who finished the year winless for the first time since his 1993 rookie season. But the four-time series champion didn't let his own struggles dampen his Hendrick teammate's celebration, as Gordon walked to the victory stage to offer his congratulations.
Bowyer finished fifth and was followed by Kasey Kahne, Travis Kvapil and Casey Mears.
Tony Stewart, in his final ride for Joe Gibbs Racing after a successful 10-year run, wound up ninth after giving up the lead late in the race to pit for fuel.
"We didn't win the race, but they knew we were here and we showed why we've been champions and won 33 races with this team," said Stewart, who is leaving to run his own race team next season.
Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top 10.
Matt Kenseth, who won the 2003 series championship in the final year of the old points system, led late but ran out of fuel and finished 25th in his first winless season in seven years.
"We just can't seem to get things to go our way," said Kenseth, who was frustrated teammate Edwards could stretch his gas but he could not. "I don't understand how he can make power and still get that much better fuel mileage than us. I had such a big lead, I was just riding around."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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