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Stewart wins race to claim title




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Disclaimer:
Amanda Vincent is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.

November 21, 2011 | 1,665 views | Post a comment

With Carl Edwards in close pursuit, Tony Stewart had to win the Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday night to win the championship, and he did just that.

With Stewarts’ race win and Edwards’ second-place finish after leading the most laps in the 267-lap event, the two drivers ended the year with a tie atop the points standings. Stewart claimed his third Sprint Cup Series title by a tie-breaker -- race wins. Stewart had five wins on the season to Edwards’ one.

“We said all week we had to just win the race and not worry about what he did,” Stewart said.

Edwards started the race from the best possible position -- the pole -- and dominated the first half of the race. Stewart, meanwhile, started 15th. After making his way into the top-10 in the first 10 laps, Stewart ended up back in 40th position on a restart after a caution that came out on lap 14 for rain. Debris knocked a hole in the grille of Stewart’s car in the early laps of the race, necessitating lengthy pit stops during the rain caution to repair the car.

As Edwards continued to spend most of the laps out front in the first half of the race, Stewart continued to pass cars after restarting in the back and then losing positions on pit road on a couple of occasions. By the end of the race, Stewart was credited with making more than 70 passes throughout the race.

“We just fought,” Stewart’s crew chief, Darian Grubb, said. “We just didn’t give up.”

The event was red flagged for rain on lap 108, and from there on out, the two championship contenders remained in pretty close proximity to each other for much of the remainder of the race. They did get separated, though, when most of the competitors cycled through green flag pit stops with about 75 laps to go and Stewart went into fuel conservation mode.

Grubb decided to leave his driver out several additional laps to stretch fuel mileage and make the next stop Stewart’s final one of the race. He brought Stewart down pit road with 55 laps to go for his final stop, knowing that Edwards would still have to make another stop while Stewart stayed out if the race went green the rest of the way.

The race didn’t go green the rest of the way, though, but the call still worked in Stewart’s favor. The caution came out one last time for rain soon after Stewart made his stop. Edwards, along with almost everyone else, headed down pit road to top off their fuel to make it to the finish.

Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski also stayed out to restart the race in the top-two positions, with Stewart restarting third. Edwards restarted fifth with 37 laps to go.

Stewart got by Busch and Keselowski on the restart to take the lead, and he was joined up front by Edwards with 33 to go. The two ran first and second for the remainder of the race, with Edwards gaining a couple hundredths of a second on Stewart on some laps and with Stewart pulling away by a couple of hundredths on others.

“That’s all I can do at the end,” Edwards said. “I drove as hard as I could drive.”

Martin Truex Jr. finished the race in the third position, Matt Kenseth was fourth and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-five.
 
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