(I don’t blog about NASCAR often, so you’ll have to indulge me)
Last night the NASCAR season came to an end with the showdown of all showdowns. Going into the final race of the season, Carl Edwards held a three point advantage over Tony Stewart for the championship. Nobody else was in contention. And nothing else mattered—Carl and Tony would take the first two spots, they just had to fight over the order.
With all the different scenarios, Carl could spot Tony a few positions at the end of the race and still claim the championship, unless Tony won. If Tony won, there was nothing Carl could do. Even if Carl led the most laps (bonus points) and finished second, they’d still tie and the tie-breaker goes to the driver with most wins, which was Tony.
And that’s exactly what happend. Carl led the most laps and finished second, about 1.2 seconds behind winner—and now three-time champion—Tony Stewart.
- It’s the first time NASCAR has determined a champion with a tie breaker.
- It’s also the first time an owner-driver has won the championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.
- It’s also the first time a driver has come from behind to win a championship by winning the race.
- It’s also the first time a champion has won the final race since 1998 when Jeff Gordon did it.
- It’s also the first time a driver has won five races in the season-ending Chase.
- Tony also came from 9th place when the Chase started, the farthest back a champion has ever started (since the Chase format started in 2004).
- It’s also the first time a driver has entered the Chase winless and went on to claim the championship.
And Tony did all that while passing 76 cars in Sunday’s race. Debris punched a hole in his car’s grill and the team fell back to 40th place while making repairs. They pitted again during another caution for more repairs and fell back again, only to climb back to the top, going three and four wide on multiple restarts to pick up positions.
“They’re going to feel like [expletive], after we kick their ass after this,” Tony said over the radio.
I’m not a big fan of Tony Stewart. I was rooting for Carl Edwards, who was robotically consistent over the Chase, with an average finish of 4.9 and finishing no worse than 11th in any of the 10 races. But winning is what matters and Carl’s consistency wasn’t enough. And I don’t think anything was enough for hard-charging Tony Stewart. I’m not a fan, but what he did to win this championship was incredible.
And in the end, I’ve been rooting for anyone but Jimmie Johnson for the last six years.
Sidebar 1: People complain all the time about NASCAR. Non-fans don’t get why it’s exciting. Those folks need to watch Tony Stewart pass 76 cars to win a race and a championship. Fans complain about everything, but you couldn’t ask for something better than a history-making finale like this one.
Sidebar 2: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won NASCAR’s Nationwide series championship on Saturday (it’s kind of like the minor leagues), running most of the season without sponsorship. He literally ran a blank, white race car throughout most of the year. There’s been a lot of economic fallout in NASCAR the past few years with major teams closing up shop or merging with other teams. This is just proof that it’s not getting better. And maybe proof for interested advertisers that there should be some deals available. Anybody want to sponsor a stock car?