NASCAR »

Stewart's unstoppable charge to glory

Tony Stewart recovered from early adversity and proved an irresistible force of nature, storming his way to victory in the final race of the season to clinch the 2011 title.
If truth be told, not every race in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has been all that gripping. Too many fuel mileage races, too many rain delays, too much in the way of drafting antics. But the season finale Ford 400 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway wiped away any such memories, with one of the most gripping and exciting climaxes to a championship that we've seen.

Stewart had to recover from early problems to fight his way from the back of the grid, then gambled on a risky fuel strategy that was instantly upset by late rain that threw all the plans out of the window and left him in a head-to-head battle with Carl Edwards for the race victory - with the winner also collecting the 2011 championship.

In the end, Stewart was simply too strong for Edwards. But it took the drive of Smoke's life to put the #14 into victory lane and to get his name etched into the Sprint Cup trophy, and he drove with a demonic intent he'd never shown before to become a three-time NASCAR champion.

"I could not be more proud," he said as he celebrated in victory lane with the team that he co-owns with Gene Haas. "Just could not be more proud of our guys and our organization. Everybody: Ryan Newman, my teammate, everybody.

"It's been a tough summer and a tough fall for us and you've got to believe in something," he continued. "The man upstairs held this rain off just long enough for us to get this job done. Thanks to all the fans who stuck it out all weekend here at Homestead. Oh, my! I don't care how long it rains; I'm going to be up all night tonight!"

The pre-race hype had been predictably over the top, promising a final confrontation between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards to put all other such showdowns in the shade. Hyperbole, of course - but for once, the reality didn't let the fans down. Starting from pole position, Carl Edwards had a fairly easy time of it over the opening stint, leading through to the pit stops on lap 34 under a debris caution, but then losing the top spot to Brad Keselowski when his tyre changer slipped on some fuel in the pit box. No matter, Edwards was back in front a dozen laps later and led from there through the next caution (for David Ragan blowing up) and after the next round of pit stops, and was still in front of the race when a rain shower swept in and forced a red flag on lap 110. The stoppage lasted for more than an hour and would eventually mean that the end of the race was pushed into an after-dark floodlit finish.

It had proved to be a less easy time of it for Tony Stewart, however. When he came in for his first pit stop under an early brief rain caution on lap 13, the pit crew found a big hole in the #14's front grille - thought to have been caused by bits dropping off the #22 of Kurt Busch, which had suffered a suspected transmission or drive shaft failure just four laps into the race. It was just as well that this early rain caution lasted a while, because Stewart had to make repeated visits back to pit lane to get the problem sorted out and duly started from the back of the field in 40th place. He was lucky not to be a lap down as well.

“They're going to feel like **** after we kick their ass after this,” Stewart radioed in after this setback, sounding somewhere between crazily confident, outright possessed and borderline insane.

He'd worked his way back up through a dozen positions by the next caution, and once again he needed a lengthy visit to pit road after further crunching the nose on the rear of David Reutimann's car - "They're are going to really feel worse when we've been to the back twice [and still win],” chipped in Stewart. Repairs done, he was at the back of the field again and spent the next portion of the race working his way up steadily and surely, so that by the time the red flag came out for the long rain delay he had just cracked the top five for the first time in the race.




Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Coors Light Pole winner Carl Edwards leads the field to the green flag in the Ford 400 season finale for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 20. [Photo Credit: By Todd Warshaw, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Tony Stewart`s crew goes to work on the front of his No. 14 Chevrolet after he sustained damage from debris in the early going of the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 20. [Photo Credit: By Todd Warshaw, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards go four-wide on the frontstretch in a frantic battle for position in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 20. [Photo Credit: By Tom Pennington, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson spins in the fourth turn as Juan Pablo Montoya takes evasive action at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 20. [Photo Credit: By Tom Pennington, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Tony Stewart emerges from his No. 14 Chevy in Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway after winning the Ford 400 and claiming his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on Sunday, Nov. 20. [Photo Credit: By Chris Graythen, Getty Images]
Tony Stewart races under the chequered flag at Homestead-Miami Speedway to win the Ford 400 and register his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on Sunday, Nov. 20. [Photo Credit: By Todd Warshaw, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski in the garage at Martinsville Speedway (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, and Erik Jones, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, lead the field during a restart of the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones in action in the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies fourth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies fourth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies fifth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, right, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, lead a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, climbs from his car after being involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS, qualified fifth Friday, July 4, 2014 for Saturday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Johnson is 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.


T - Unregistered

November 21, 2011 8:35 PM

Delighted that Tony won, but what a dire points system ! How can a driver who has won half of the chase races - 5 out of 10 - finish level with a driver (Carl Edwards) who did not win a single chase race ? - something dreadfully wrong there. The best driver won - to come back from 40th and to win was amazing.



© 1999 - 2014 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.