Pure will and determination, and a little bit of luck, led Tony Stewart to this history-making third Cup title
It couldn’t have been set up any better.
Trash-talking Tony vs. Clean-cut Carl.
The guy who has been steady all year vs. the guy who was on fire in the Chase.
3 points. If you win the race, you win the title.
I expected a great one.
And what I saw was a classic. On par with 1992 (eerily similar actually) and Alan Kulwicki vs. Bill Elliott; Also on a level with 2004, when Kurt Busch lost a wheel entering pit road and still hung on for the title.
It was that good.
People I know who don’t watch NASCAR watched it, and loved it. Stewart drove like a madman, going 3 and 4 wide on restarts in an effort to make up every position he could. He caught a good break with the timing of his pit stop and the rain, and got ahead of Carl and never looked back.
How did this happen?
Looking back, the question that keeps coming is a basic one: What happened to Tony Stewart to make this happen?
How did the guy who didn’t win a race prior to the Chase -- and at one point claimed he didn’t even belong in it and would just be taking up space -- win 5 of the 10 Chase races, in the process topple Carl Edwards, who assembled the best average finish in Chase history yet still couldn’t win it all?
The answer is two-fold: Determination, with a dash of luck
There is no doubt that Smoke was at the top of his game in the Chase; you don’t rack up five Chase wins without that being the case.
And the amount of determination he showed Sunday at Homestead, passing well over 100 cars over the course of the evening, proves he is well worthy of being a champion for the third time.
But luck was, of course, a factor. They nearly lost the radiator early in the race when a piece of Kurt Busch’s transmission found Smoke’s car. Luckily, they were able to repair damage done and surge back to the front.
Also, remember that his early Chase wins were on fuel mileage, and if he had run out of fuel then we wouldn’t have gotten to this amazing conclusion to the year.
Not the same as Kulwicki
One bone I must pick is that I’m not a big fan of everyone comparing this title by Smoke to Alan Kulwicki’s in 1992. Technically, Smoke is an owne/driver. He is part owner of the team with Gene Haas.
But to compare this to the amazing underdog story of Kulwicki is just silly. Kulwicki was a true owner/driver, coming up from the bottom and struggling to make it early in his career. He built his team into a contender, and won against a Bill Elliott driven car fielded by legendary owner Junior Johnson – the Rick Hendrick of his day.
Ironically, Tony’s car today, basically is a Hendrick car. True, Stewart-Haas racing is a separate team, but much of their equipment comes from Hendrick, making them a satellite operation of the team. So this is basically a Hendrick title – their 6th in a row. Unlike 1992, which was the Underbird vs. a giant, this was two titans battling – Hendrick vs. Roush – and there’s no way to dispute that.
It was a great battle; one of the best ever in fact. But don’t call it something
All about wins
Stewart and Edwards finished the year tied – with the title going to Stewart because of his larger number of wins.
This year in Cup it was all about winning.
Winning races in the regular season was pretty much necessary to make the Chase in the first place … especially for the wild card entries.
And once those Chase races started, little did Tony know how important they would be in the end.
Imagine all the little moves that made this possible. That last lap pass of Jeff Burton at Phoenix … Any of the 100+ passes he made Sunday. All of them counted.
Kudos to Tony. He deserved this title. He carries A.J. Foyt’s old number, and he has the old man’s attitude.
He said he was coming for Carl. I called him cocky. Turns out he was properly predicting the future.
To win a title, you have to want it more than anyone else.
It’s pretty obvious that was very true with Tony this year.
Become a fan of the Facebook page NASCARBeyond
Follow me on Twitter: