Tony Stewart Wins 2011 NASCAR Championship

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) -- Tony Stewart insisted he wasn't a title
contender when NASCAR's championship race began.

When it became clear he actually was a viable threat, he kicked
it into another gear and vowed to go for broke in his pursuit of
Carl Edwards.

Did he ever.

Stewart used a powerful and relentless drive -- some might
suggest the best in NASCAR history -- on Sunday in the season finale
to seize his third NASCAR championship. He overcame a hole in the
grill of his Chevrolet, a rain delay, used debatable fuel strategy
and made 116 passes on the track to win at Homestead-Miami
Speedway.

Edwards led the most laps -- 119 of the 267 -- but finished a
helpless second. The two ended up tied in the final Sprint Cup
points standings, but Stewart's five victories -- all in the chase --
to Edwards' one gave him the championship.

Stewart became the first owner/driver to win the championship
since the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992, and the driver to end Jimmie
Johnson's record five-year title run.

"Are you kidding me?" Stewart asked in Victory Lane. "We said
all week we'd just go out and win the race and didn't have to worry
about what he did. If this doesn't go down as one of the greatest
championship battles in history, I don't know what will."

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

Edwards was disappointed but held his head high after the race.

"This night is about Tony Stewart. Those guys rose to the
occasion and they beat us fair and square," Edwards said. "That
is all I had. We came here and sat on the pole, led the most laps
and Tony still managed. That's it. That's all I got at the end.
That's as hard as I can drive.

"I told my wife, `If I can't win this thing, I'm going to be
the best loser NASCAR has ever had.' So, I'm going to try really
hard to keep my head up and know that we'll just go next year and
we'll be just as hard to beat."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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