Stewart beats Edwards for Sprint Cup title in tiebreaker
Homestead, FL (Sports Network) - The battle between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart for the 2011 Sprint Cup Series championship couldn't have concluded any better than the way it did on Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Stewart's victory in the season-ending Ford 400 compared to a second-place finish for Edwards allowed Stewart to win his third championship in NASCAR's premier series.
Even though Stewart and Edwards finished the season tied in points (2,403 each), Stewart earned the title by virtue of his five wins this year -- all of them coming in the Chase for the Sprint Cup -- compared to only one victory for Edwards, which came in March at Las Vegas. It was the first time the series championship was decided in a tiebreaker.
"We said all week that if we just go out and win the race, we didn't have to worry about what [Edwards] did, so we did," Stewart said. "If this doesn't go down as one of the greatest championship battles in history, I don't know what will."
Stewart's two other Sprint Cup championships came in 2002 and '05. He became the ninth driver in the sport's history to win three or more titles. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt share the record with seven championships each. Jimmie Johnson won the title each year from 2006-10.
After starting 15th, Stewart overcame numerous obstacles during the 300-mile race, which featured a rain delay for one hour, 15 minutes after 109 laps were completed. Stewart ran over debris in the early going and had to make two lengthy pit stops under caution to repair his damaged front grill. He fell back as far as 40th but benefited from several restarts to move through the field.
Stewart also had two slow pit stops and lost track position. He last pitted with 56 laps remaining in a fuel and tire strategy, nicely orchestrated by crew chief Darian Grubb. Stewart held the third position during the eighth and final caution, but after the last restart with 37 laps to go, he quickly moved around Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch to take the lead for good.
"There is no quit with this team," Stewart said. "Darian Grubb and everybody on this team has just dug deep and never given up. This is an awesome night."
Edwards passed Keselowski for second with 33 laps left but could not chase down Stewart in the remaining laps. He finished 1.3 seconds behind Stewart.
"This night is about Tony Stewart," Edwards said. "Those guys [Stewart's No.14 team] rose to the occasion. They beat us fair and square. That was all I had at the end. My guys did a really good job. We came here and sat on the pole and led the most laps. Tony and Darian still managed to do a good job with their strategy and come out in front of us."
Edwards, the pole sitter, led the most laps with 119 and therefore earned two bonus points.
Stewart gave Grubb his first title in the series. Grubb won the Daytona 500 as crew chief for Jimmie Johnson in '06. He substituted for crew chief Chad Knaus, who was suspended for the Daytona 500 and several other races for a rules violation that occurred during Speedweeks that year.
"We just didn't give up, and we kept fighting," Grubb said. "We went out and earned this championship, so we're true champions."
Edwards entered the season-finale with a three-point advantage over Stewart. He had been the points leader since October 9 at Kansas -- the fourth race in the Chase.
"I told my wife [Kate] that if I can't win this thing, I'm going to be the best loser NASCAR has ever had," Edwards said. "I'm going to try really hard to keep my head up and know that we'll be just as hard to beat next year...I wish so bad we had that trophy, but it just wasn't meant to be tonight."
Edwards won last year's race at Homestead.
Stewart also became the first driver and owner to win the series championship since Alan Kulwicki did it in 1992. While Stewart was being honored as the champion in front of the estimated crowd of 73,000, the skies opened up again on the 1.5-mile South Florida racetrack.
"I don't care how long it rains; I'm going to be up all night," Stewart quipped.
Martin Truex Jr. finished third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.
Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, who won last week at Phoenix, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton completed the top-10.
Harvick finished the season third in points (-58), followed by Kenseth (-73), Brad Keselowski (-84) and Johnson (-99).
11/20 22:47:09 ET