By admin | November 21, 2011
By Richard Allen
If ever there was an example of a driver willing his way to success, Sundayâ€™s race specifically and the Chase for the Championship in general was it.
Tony Stewart entered the Sprint Cup finale trailing Carl Edwards by three points. In order to win his third series title Stewart would have to finish three positions ahead or win the race. And while Stewart was obviously determined to do just that, events seemed to conspire against him in the early going of the event.
When Kurt Buschâ€™s transmission exploded in the early laps of the event, a piece from that failed part struck the front of Stewartâ€™s car and punched a hole in the grille the Chevrolet. After an extended time on pit road to repair the damage, the #14 car was forced to restart from the rear of the pack while Edwards was in the process of leading laps.
After yet another trip to pit road for additional repairs under caution, Stewart again had to restart from the rear of the pack.
From that point, Stewart went on a charge the likes of which has rarely been seen in NASCAR history. He powered through the field all the way into the top-5 by the time the race was stopped because of rain just shy of the halfway point.
All the while, Edwards continued to run at the front of the field and look very much like he was about to not only win the race but claim his first ever Sprint Cup championship. The driver of car #99 started the race from the pole position and eventually went on to lead the most laps, which assured him of the bonus points awarded for dominating any NASCAR race.
Ultimately, however, the race and the season would end in a way that seemed as if Hollywood script writers had crafted it to bring about a finish that had fans and competitors alike on the edge of their seats.
Using a fuel conserving strategy, Stewart found himself leading as the laps wound down. A late race caution for yet another brief rain shower bunched the pack and placed the two top championship contenders within striking distance of each other for a final dash to the checkered flag and the Sprint Cup trophy.
With the points structure as it was set up, whichever driver won the race would win the title.
Stewart bolted to a quick lead after the green flag waved the final time. Edwards, however, would not go down without a fight. Lap after lap these two drivers clicked off fast lap after fast lap as they left the rest of the pack far behind in their mirrors.
As the finish approached, Edwards appeared to be cutting into the lead. But as he had throughout so much of the Chase for the Championship, Stewart rose to the occasion and held on for the win.
The two drivers actually wound up in a tie for championship points. Stewart held the tie-breaker by virtue of the fact that he had more wins over the course of the season. It was the first time in the modern era that a tie-breaker had been needed to settle the championship.
Even though his car and team had not performed like a true championship contender throughout the â€˜regular seasonâ€™, this driver and his crew elevated their game over the last ten races, winning five of those events. Quite simply, Tony Stewart won the 2011 Sprint Cup title because he wanted to more than anyone else.
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