Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Tony Stewart! Simply amazing in charging from behind to win the NASCAR championship over Carl Edwards in the season finale

  Smoke has been smokin' hot through the playoffs, and he took his fifth win in 10 weeks Sunday night, head to head against Carl Edwards, to win the NASCAR championship (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Now this was one for the ages. A classic stock car racing title fight…
   Tony Stewart Sunday night capped an amazing playoff run with his fifth tour win in the final 10 weeks of the season, with a head-to-head victory over Carl Edwards in the Ford 400 – to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

   Edwards led the points most of the season, and Stewart wasn't even much of a factor on the track during the year's first many months. But Stewart came alive at Atlanta Labor Day weekend, and he roared through the playoffs with one of the most awesome performances in years.
   The two actually ended the season tied in points – a first in this sport's 60-year history. And Stewart won the championship with the tie-breaker – season wins, 5-to-1.
   But Stewart certainly had a night of it -- Stewart passed an astounding 118 cars during the five-hour race.
   Stewart twice needed lengthy repairs on pit road for damage to his car's nose early. And a pit road miscue -- a lug nut stuck in the air gun -- again dropped him to the rear of the field.... while Edwards started from the pole and led the most laps.
   Each time Stewart fought back into contention, with daring moves.
   Stewart's charges were some of the season's most exciting, breath-taking. He certainly lived up to his pre-race game plan that second place meant nothing, that he was here to win the race and the championship -- Stewart made bold moves and passes time after time, even going four-wide.
   "Did I make it exciting enough?" Stewart cracked at the finish.
   The 400-mile race on this 1-1/2-mile track just south of Miami was badgered by rain throughout the day, once for an hour-plus red-flag rain delay. And the skies opened up in a downpour just moments after Stewart crossed the line, nine lengths ahead of Edwards.
    "I don't care how hard it rains, I'm going to be up all night," Stewart said.
    After the race crew chief Darian Grubb revealed that he had been told in October "that I wouldn't be here next year. Now we'll see how things change.
    "But first we'll celebrate."
    The NASCAR championship crew chief, essentially just fired midway through the chase?


      Twice crew chief Darian Grubb's crew had to repair the nose of Stewart's car, repairs that dropped him to the rear of the field, while Edwards played with the lead. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    The title is Stewart's third, following title runs in 2002 and 2005.
    "We said we came here to win the race," Stewart said.
   "If this doesn't go down as one of the greatest championship battles in history, I don't know what."

   For Edwards the title loss was a heartbreaker. He lost similar razor-thin championship battles in 2005 and 2008.
   This loss was clearly even harder to take, and it was an emotional, but incredibly classy performance Edwards delivered after the race, so gracious in defeat...on a night where he and crew chief Bob Osborne really didn't do anything wrong.
   "That's as hard as I can drive. That's everything I've got. We'll be back next year and make it as hard on him as we can again," Edwards said.
   "This night is about Tony Stewart. Those guys beat us fair and square. We sat on the pole and led the most laps, and yet those
    "I told my wife 'If I can't win this thing, i'll be the best loser NASCAR has ever had... So i'm going to try very hard to keep my head up and know that we'll go next year and be just as hard to beat...and just as hard the year after that. i just hope everybody is proud of the way we performed and our effort.
   "It just wasn't meant to be.
   "I could see what Tony was doing. But that's the hardest I could drive.
   "I just hope the two of us can go at it again next year. That was a lot of work to stay calm and patient….."
    Edwards, though the 10 playoff events, averaged an amazing 4.9 finish -- best ever in the eight years of the chase. And that 4.9 would have been good enough to win every other chase, except this one.
    Stewart, ironically, never led the points during the season until the final race.
   Stewart is the first owner-driver to win the NASCAR championship since Alan Kulwicki did it in 1992. But Stewart was quick to point out "Alan did it on his own, and I've got some great support."
   Much of that support comes from Chevrolet kingpin Rick Hendrick, who provides engines and engineering for Stewart's team.


   Tony Stewart (right, Office Depot red) made many daring moves in the race, like this four-wide pass to the inside in a battle for the lead (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   One of the night's most dramatic moments came with 66 laps to go in the 267-lapper, when Grubb made the stunning call not to make a routine pit stop with Edwards and the rest of the pack. Grubb made a decision to keep Stewart out on the track conserving fuel – in order to make it to the finish on just one more stop, while everyone else would have had to make two.
   However Stewart and Edwards clearly were evenly matched, and no one else was a contender, So Grubb's call seemed an unnecessary gamble.
   Stewart made his final stop with 56 laps to go, under green, and Grubb felt he could have made the finish without another stop…while Edwards would have needed an extra stop.
   But suddenly, just moments after Stewart's stop, rain hit the track, hard rain.
   NASCAR kept the cars rolling around the track, to keep heat in the asphalt and not 'lose the track.' 
   That yellow allowed Edwards and the rest to pit for enough fuel to finish, but they gave back track position to Stewart.
   Stewart used that track position to good advantage and never gave the point back to Edwards.


 Carl Edwards dominated the first part of the rain-marred race, waiting -- in vain it turned out -- for Tony Stewart to make a fatal mistake (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com