All Bowyer had to do to keep Edwards from winning a second straight title in the second-tier series was finish in the top eight. He did that easily, taking fifth to stay on top of the standings, right where he has been most of the year despite winning only one of 35 races.
"We've been consistent," Bowyer said after climbing out of his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. "We did the things it takes to win championships. I want to thank Richard for giving me the opportunity."
Edwards wrested the lead from Kyle Busch late in the race and stayed out front to the end of the 200-lap event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He earned his seventh Nationwide victory and kept Busch from recording a record 11th series win.
Edwards did all he could in his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, other than getting the five-point bonus for leading the most laps, but it wasn't enough.
"We've raced a long time, we're both from the Midwest and he's a good competitor," Bowyer said of Edwards. "He's last year's champion and it feels really good to beat him."
It was a disappointing finish for Edwards, who faces even bigger odds Sunday trying to make up a 141-point deficit against Jimmie Johnson in the Sprint Cup finale. Johnson can wrap up the title by finishing 36th or better, no matter what Edwards does.
"Man, that's a great win, to be able to hold off that 18 [Busch's No. 18 Toyota], as strong as that group has been," Edwards said. "It's no good to finish second, but I know Clint will be a great champion.
"Tonight went about as well as it could and, no matter what happens tomorrow, we're going to go into the offseason knowing we're going to be really good next year."
Both Edwards and Bowyer, another Cup star, had consistent seasons. The difference was Bowyer rolled up 29 top-10 finishes and finished every race, while Edwards had 22 top-10s and failed to finish two races.
"It's not tonight that decided this championship," Edwards said. "It's an all-season thing. We've got a great team here and on the Cup side. There's no shame in finishing second."
The 29-year-old Bowyer, who started the night with a 56-point lead, fell out of the top 10 several times in the first half of the race. He actually trailed Edwards in points several times, but his team used a two-tire pit stop during a caution just past the halfway point to get its driver into the top five, and he managed to stay there the rest of the race.
The last of eight caution flags in the race came out with nine laps remaining, making things a little more nervous for Bowyer.
"I knew Clint had to be sweating those last few laps knowing some of those guys behind him had [fresh] tires," Edwards said. "But he did a good job of staying where he needed to be."
The last four laps were run under the green flag and none of the top five positions changed as Edwards pulled away from Busch.
Bowyer said it was a nerve-racking race.
"The whole race we were three-wide, in traffic, behind, trying to catch up," he said. "Carl did a good job of keeping the pressure on us. But we knew we had to just stick with it and stay smart, and that's what we did."
The driver championship was the fifth for Childress in the developmental series.
Rookie Joey Logano, Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, started from the pole and finished 10th. That wrapped up the car owner points championship for Gibbs in the No. 20 Toyota, a car also driven at times this year by Busch, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. Bowyer wound up second in owner points, 12 behind.