Tony Stewarts’ 2011 Historic Championship

Tony Stewart celebrating his third championship

Tony Stewart started the 2011 season very strong competing as a legitimate threat to win the first three races in Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Tony had the Vegas race in the bag, until he was plagued with a pit road issue, giving the win to Carl Edwards. This race win for Edwards would be key during the Chase when a mere three points separated these competitors.Stewart would have more shots to win races at Kansas and perhaps a few other tracks. But when all was said and done after 26 races, Stewart found himself ninth in the standings with what appeared to be a disappointing year. He even counted himself out saying “If we’re going to run this bad it really doesn’t matter if we make the chase or not”

How Stewart won his third Championship at Homestead was an amazing showcase of determination and will power. Stewart had his work cut out for him by starting 15th, but it didn’t take long for Tony to crack the top ten. When pieces from the #22 machine of Kurt Busch fell onto the race track, Stewart’s grill opening was left with a hole the size of a golf ball. The crew went to work putting on a brand new grill opening and four fresh tires, miring Stewart back in the 40th position. Stewart would not stay there long as he was willing to go four-wide just about anywhere his car would fit.

Stewart rallied back to the top 15 when yet, another pit stop was needed to fix damage received from hitting another car. The damage didn’t appear bad, but Stewart was forced to make another trip down pit road and came out in 31st place. He once again surged to the front of the field proving he wanted his third title more than ever. Once again going three and four-wide, Tony was making sure he was leaving nothing on the table.

Once Stewart got into the lead, during a green flag pit stop, his crew had trouble with the air gun, making him restart in 12th place. As most drivers would have been angry, Stewart was calm and said “We were a lot further back than this” as he took it in stride. Darian Grubb had faith as Tony made an aggressive move to get by six cars in one lap. Tony once again made another surge to the top five when yet again on a pit stop, what was originally going to be a four tire stop became a two tire, 14.4 second stop due to another issue with the left rear. Despite these pit road challenges, Tony, with sheer will and determination went on to pass 118 cars on the track to win his third Cup Championship over Carl Edwards.

Tony Stewart celebrating his third championship

When Stewart won his first title in 2002, it was an amazing feat, as all drivers dream of winning the coveted championship title. This would only be the beginning of what many didn’t see coming. When Tony Stewart won his second title in 2005, it was an unbelievable season, as his team prepared his race cars week after week in top condition. However, since his 2005 title, Stewart has not finished in the top five point standings until this year at the Homestead race, by winning his third series championship. Without season plaguing mistakes, Stewart may have easily won eight to nine races this season. Few drivers can say they will win a third title, and back it up by doing so. Performing with nine top-5’s and nineteen top-10’s, Stewart made his vision a reality. 

What Stewart did in the final ten weeks of the season is historic in many ways. Stewart becomes the ninth driver in NASCAR history to win three or more championships, and joins a list that includes Lee Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough. Also, his win at Homestead is his 44th career win, matching Bill Elliott for 15th on the all time wins list. Also historic are Tony’s nine top-5 finishes, the fewest for a title holder since 1950. Looking at owner drivers who have won a title, Stewart joins only Richard Petty and Alan Kulwicki by winning this title as a owner and driver.  
 
One exciting moment in the chase is when Stewart made an outside pass to hold off Jimmie Johnson, the unprecedented five-time champion.  When Johnson won four chase races, it seemed to be a something nobody would ever match. So with Tony winning five chase races, he achieves an amazing feat and something fans may never see again. Also, Stewart’s five wins in the chase turn out to be the tie breaker with Carl Edwards for the championship. That and how he backed up his word about competing with Carl Edwards this season is why many fans will never forget this championship.
 
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3 thoughts on “Tony Stewarts’ 2011 Historic Championship

  1. Question is, will Grubb be back for 2012? He was all but fired before the Chase only to lead the team to 5 Chase wins. Can't think of a hotter crew chief in NASCAR right now. Obviously he and Stewart were able to harness some energy and use momentum to win the Chase. Tony, give Darian a chance to defend the championship next year, he definitely earned it!

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