Ryan Newman was one of the first people to greet Tony Stewart at Homestead after his teammate and Stewart-Haas Racing team owner won the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
When Newman leaned his head into the window of the No. 14 car, he found his friend still stunned over what had just taken place.
"He looked at me and said, 'I still don't believe it. I just don't even know how it happened,'" Newman said Thursday.
But here's the thing: Even now, neither of the SHR drivers can explain how Stewart caught fire in the Chase after being an also-ran in the summer months.
Newman, a Purdue University grad with a degree in engineering, said he's still mystified and "baffled" as to how the No. 14 team suddenly got so hot.
"It's still mind-boggling, the success they had with the troubles they were having," he said. "I don't know. Some things, you don't totally understand."
For those who have been around Newman, that's a bit surprising. The Indiana native is one of NASCAR's smartest drivers and can usually explain just about everything.
But not this time.
Was it just Stewart's willpower that propelled the No. 14 team to a title?
"I don't think it had anything to do with that," Newman said. "I think things just clicked for them. There was no rocket science to it. Part of it is chemistry, part of it is effort, part of it is performance. Call it what you want -- what they did and what they achieved is amazing."
Seriously, though -- there had to be something the team found, right? Come on, Ryan, don't hold out on us. What was it?
"There were no secrets to his success, it was just a matter of dedication and hard work," Newman insisted. "And that's the same with the last five that Jimmie [Johnson] had."
Newman said he knows Stewart wouldn't choose to relive the championship run over again if he could, because of all the turmoil that went on behind the scenes. Stewart made the decision to fire crew chief Darian Grubb before the team went on a winning streak, and both men were still able to work together despite the breakup.
"The things Tony and Darian fought, to be able to fight through that and put personal feelings aside and win a championship -- if you told me that's what I had to do, I don't know that I'd do that with [Newman crew chief] Tony Gibson," Newman said. "It worked. Sometimes, the moons all line up and the stars drop out of the sky."