Editor’s note: John Gaudiosi is a national journalist who has been covering the video game business for more than a decade. In addition to blogging for WRAL.com, he also writes about gaming for Wired Magazine, The Washington Post, Xbox.com and Yahoo! Games.

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The NASCAR season is over with Jimmy Johnson once again reigning supreme, but he’s not the only one who drove a Nextel Cup car for the ultimate prize.

EA Sports crowned its first NASCAR Challenge champion at Miami Speedway on the very stage that Johnson would get the trophy later that night. Brandon Coppinger of Nashville, Tenn. walked away with a check for $10,000, a new 42-inch TV and over $1,000 in gift cards and free games.

Not bad for playing video games.

If you didn’t take part in the NASCAR Challenge this year (it came to North Carolina’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway), EA Sports will be bringing it back next summer. Bollinger told me that the competition at his local Sears wasn’t that bad. The fact that he’s great at NASCAR 08–he plays religiously–probably didn’t hurt.

But if you’re good at NASCAR, you have a much better shot at winning some cash and prizes (all 16 semi-finalists were flown to Miami for the weekend with a friend) with NASCAR then you do with Madden, according to Bollinger. He’s tried the Madden Challenge every year, as well, but he never gets far in the local stops.

EA Sports partnered with NASCAR to have the final videogame competition played on pit row and the last race was actually broadcast on the huge track jumbotron for those early arrivers to watch. Bret Musburger was on hand to add some very humorous play-by-play for the crowd watching Bollinger race his 27 virtual laps.

Musburger and Bollinger had some great short exchanges while the driver was honed in on keeping the lead and winning the $10,000 check. EA Sports President Peter Moore was on hand to give the oversized check to Bollinger on the championship stage. All 16 semi-finalists were able to walk onto that stage during the presentation, which was a cool experience for all involved. Then they all stayed for the race.

If this sounds fun to you, make sure to check out the NASCAR Challenge next year. You could be the next winner.