Climactic Ending: NASCAR Star Tony Stewart Claims NASCAR Sprint Cup Title From Behind After Homestead Victory
The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup finale couldn’t have been more climactic.
Oakley racing star Tony “Smoke” Stewart was a mere three points behind then-leader Carl Edwards prior to the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway this past Sunday. But after weeks of heated “verbal warfare” and dramatic moves to advance in the overall standings, the season came to an explosive close with Tony emerging victorious at the race and with his third NASCAR Crown in hand.
The closest win in the sport’s history came down to a intense skirmish on the track between the leaders after Tony raged back by passing 118 cars over 400 miles. The Oakley speed demon, who’s the first driver-owner to have won the Title since 1992, fell out of the top 30 twice in the first 40 laps.
The turning point came when he took the lead during a green-flag cycle on lap 201. Following some rain delays and some grille damage to his car, he restarted in the 40th position and climbed 17 spots in 14 laps after he fell back to 32nd due to a trip to the pit.
“I feel like I passed half the state of Florida,” Tony said, rocking his Oakley base layer, eyewear, racing gloves and racing boots. “I would definitely say this is one of the greatest races in my life. I would have lost every bet in the world that we were going to win a race or win five races.”
But win he did – taking out the field in a highly pressurized position. The result topped off an impressive list of Chase victories at Chicagoland, New Hampshire, Martinsville and Texas Motorspeedway. All following a period of time after his Michigan International Speedway stop when Tony himself admitted that a run at the Title was likely out of reach.
That mentality changed, however, as the wins began piling up in the Chase. And when it came down to Tony and Edwards duking it out in the “final round,” Smoke didn’t hesitate to employ a little “psychological warfare” on his targeted rival.
“I absolutely mentally tried to beat that kid (Edwards) up this week,” Tony continued. “I felt I had to throw everything out in my arsenal to get this opportunity. He’s too nice to fight back. It was like picking on a kid; you kind of felt bad. He’ll win a championship and be in our position. I appreciated that battle we had.”
With that, Smoke joins an ultra-prestigious group of drivers to have sealed three Championships…all of which are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame (Lee Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrel Waltrip). He also becomes the first victor in the Chase era to bag five races en route to taking the crown.
A huge congratulations to Smoke on the glorious victory at Homestead – and for claiming his third NASCAR Title!