2011-11-24 / Sports

Stewart Wins It All

By Gerald Hodges

Tony Stewart Tony Stewart HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Tony Stewart led Carl Edwards across the finish line to win Sunday’s Ford 400 and claim the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

The pair finished in a dead heat in points (2403), but Stewart’s five wins was the tiebreaker.

“We did exactly what we had to do and that was to win the race,” said Stewart. “This is for all the people that have helped us. Darian (crew chief Darian Grubb) never gave up. There were times I was so far down, but he always pulled me back up.”

The championship was Stewart’s third. His other two came in 2002 and 2005.

In what was the closest points battle for the championship, Stewart had to come from the tail end of the field twice, after some type of debris punched a hole in his grille during Lap 17. His team made repairs under caution.

After another caution on Lap 34, Stewart brought the car back to pit road, and his crew applied tape to hold the grille in place.

Stewart gradually pulled away after a restart on Lap 231 of the 267-lap race, and claimed his third Cup title, ending Jimmie Johnson’s five consecutive championships.

Carl Edwards started on the pole, led the most laps, but near the end of the race, his Ford was no match for Stewart’s Chevrolet.

“They beat us fair and square,” said Edwards. “I gave it all I had. I said before this thing started that I would give it everything I had. And that’s all I can say.”

“We’ll be back next year, and hopefully with what we’ve learned, can pull it off.”

Martin Truex ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton.

Final top-25 leaders: 1. Stewart-2403, 2. Edwards- 2403, 3. Harvick- 2345, 4. Kenseth-2330, 5. Keselowski 2319, 6. Johnson-2304, 7. Earnhardt-2290, 8. J. Gordon 2287, 9. Hamlin-2284, 10. Newman- 2284, 11. Kurt Busch-2264, 12. Kyle Busch- 2246, 13. Bowyer-1047, 14. Kahne- 1041, 15. Allmendinger 1013, 16. Biffle- 997, 17. Menard- 947, 18. Truex-937, 19. Ambrose-936, 20. Burton-935, 21. Montoya- 932, 22. Martin-930, 23. Ragan 906, 24. Logano-846, 25. Vickers-846

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished second behind Brad Keselowski in the season finale at Homestead-Miami and clinched the 2011 Nationwide

Series Championship.

“It was just a lot of hard work by all these guys – Jack Roush, Ford Racing, everybody – this crew right here, they didn’t give up on me,” said Stenhouse. “They were with us all through last year and I’m just glad to be here.”

“This is just awesome what this team has done, what Jack Roush has done and everybody at Ford Racing and Nationwide Insurance for giving us this great series to run in and all the fans that come out to watch every week. We really appreciate that, especially the ones that support us.”

Carl Edwards finished third and secured the 2011 Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship for Roush Fenway.

Final top-10 leaders: 1. Stenhouse-1222, 2. Sadler- 1177, 3. Allgaier- 1105, 4. Almirola-1095, 5. Sorenson- 1062, 6. Leffler-1028, 7. K. Wallace 963, 8. Scott-947, 9. Annett 921, 10. S. Wallace-921

Austin Dillon withstood a strong challenge from race winner Johnny Sauter to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in Friday night’s Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR called the event with 15 laps left with Sauter in the lead and Dillon in 10th place, giving Dillon, 21, the youngest champion in series history, a six-point edge over Sauter in the final series standings.

Denny Hamlin finished second in the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports truck, followed by Kevin Harvick, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Joey Coulter, who won the 2011 rookie of the year title. Coulter is a teammate of Dillon’s at Richard Childress Racing.

Final top-10 leaders: 1. Dillon-888, 2. Sauter-882, 3. Buescher-859, 4. Hornaday- 838, 5. Peters-832, 6. Bodine- 803, 7. Coulter-796, 8. Carfton-785, 9. Whitt-764, 10. Piguet-752

Rusty Wallace, who climbed out of his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for the last time at the end of the 2005 NASCAR Cup Series season, was inducted into the St. Louis, Mo., Hall of Fame last week.

Wallace, a 55-time winner in NASCAR’s top series and the 1989 NASCAR Cup champion, is lead analyst for ESPN’s NASCAR studio programs. He also calls selected NASCAR Nationwide Series races from the booth.

He spent the 2006 season as an analyst for ESPN’s coverage of the IndyCar Series before moving to NASCAR in 2007 as the stock car racing series returned to ESPN.

Wallace, whose 706th career start ended his 2005 season long “Last Call” tour in the No. 2 Dodge, fell just 28 laps short of leading 20,000 laps in his 25-year career. The 1984 Rookie of the Year ended his 22nd consecutive fulltime Cup season eighth in the standings, the 17th time he finished among the top 10. At the time of his retirement, Wallace ranked as one of the top-five money winners in NASCAR history, with nearly $50 million in career earnings.

In 1991, Wallace helped form Penske Racing South with Roger Penske and Don Miller, as the Penske name returned to NASCAR after an 11-year absence. Wallace sold his interest when he retired in 2005.

In 1998, NASCAR named him one of its 50 greatest drivers of all time.

Wallace is owner of RWI Racing, which fields the No. 66 Chevrolet, driven by his son, Steve Wallace, in the Nationwide Series. In addition, he helped design Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. He is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame.

Racing trivia question: Which city will host the 2011 Sprint Cup Banquet?

Last week’s question: Which Cup team will Kasey Kahne drive for in 2012? Answer. He is replacing Mark Martin at Hendrick Motorsports, who is moving to Michael Waltrip Racing.

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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