Tony Stewart wins the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship with win at Homestead

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Tony Stewart celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship.

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Tony Stewart just wouldn't be denied.

Damage to the No. 14 grill. Rain Delays. Pit problems. None of those would be issues for NASCAR's newest champion. Stewart conquered all of the challenges that were thrown his way, including passing a total of 118 cars, to track down and run past Carl Edwards to capture the Ford 400 and NASCAR's Sprint Cup Championship with a thrilling perforamance Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Stewart and Edward would finish the season tied in the point standings with 2,403 points but Stewart had the tiebreaker thanks to the five victories he claimed over the season. Edwards only had one.

It came down to the final lap, with Edwards needing to pass Stewart to claim the title. After all, Edwards would lead 119 of the 267 laps, but Stewart would never let him get close. Stewart would become the first driver/owner to win a NASCAR series championship since Alan Kulwicki did it in 1992.

As the rain came down in Victory Lane, a happy Tony Stewart said "I don't care how long it rains, I'm going to be up all night. We said all week we'd just go out and win the race and not worry about what he did."

The two drivers have been trading jabs all week, but it was Edwards who was diplomatic in defeat.

"That's as hard as I can drive, that was everything I've got," Edwards said after the race. "This night's about Tony Stewart."

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Credit: By Chris Graythen, Getty Images
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. 20via nascar-assets.americaneagle.com


Early cautions and a red flag delay added some drama but didn't change the story line: Edwards in the lead and Stewart in hot pursuit, stalking and passing car after car. Until there was no one left to pass 

158 laps to go, a heavy but brief ran shower would stop the race. Crews quickly began trying the track but the red flag wasn't raised for 1 hour, 14 minutes. 

"The track is going to change," Edwards said as he prepared for the green flag.

Edwards luck would change as well as Stewart surged into the race and points lead. As the race hit halfway, Stewart and Edwards would tied in the points--with a tiebreaker set to go to Stewart if things needed to end that way.

But as a quick as it came, Edwards was back out in front--at one point stretching his lead to eight points ahead of Stewart with 68 laps to go. The race will definitely go down with aggressive spurts of three-wide action in between rain delays, mild dust-ups, and cautions.

The two drivers would go back and forth for the rest of the evening. Crew chiefs were setting their strategies. But yellow would wave again, for rain.

After  an extended caution, the green flag was waved for the final time with 22 laps to go. Stewart fought his way back to the lead with Edwards in second. Stewart had four tires, Edwards had two, and both were stocked with fuel and ready for a sprint for the win. Stewart never let up, and after the afternoon of being the one doing the chasing, he was finally out front.

NASCAR couldn't have scripted it better. A driver comes from behind to win the title by winning the final race.

"If this doesn't go down as one of the greatest championship battles in history," Stewart said, "I don't know what will."  

Unofficial Race results:
1. Tony Stewart
2. Carl Edwards
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Jeff Gordon
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Jeff Burton
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. Ryan Newman
13. Regan Smith
14. Jamie McMurray
15. A.J. Allmendinger
16. Paul Menard
17. Brian Vickers
18. David Reutimann
19. Joey Logano
20. Brad Keselowski
21. Mike Bliss
22. Travis Kvapil
23. Kyle Busch
24. Mark Martin
25. Trevor Bayne
26. Casey Mears
27. Bobby Labonte
28. Dave Blaney
29. T J Bell
30. Geoffrey Bodine
31. Juan Pablo Montoya
32. Jimmie Johnson
33. David Gilliland
34. Kurt Busch
35. Greg Biffle
36. Landon Cassill
37. Cole Whitt
38. David Ragan
39. Marco Ambrose
40. Joe Nemechek
41. JJ Yeley
42. David Stremme
43. Michael McDowell

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