Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Tony Stewart wins in a stunning and historic tie-breaker

Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR

We wanted excitement and the 2011 Chase season was NOT a disappointment! Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart battled until the final lap at Homestead-Miami Speedway to see who would take home the coveted Sprint Cup championship. The points were a dead-even tie; the tie-breaker was the most wins, which went to Stewart with five. 

Congratulations to Tony Stewart on his third Sprint Cup Championship.

1. Tony Stewart - 2011 Sprint Cup Chase champion – By Unique Hiram

Race winner Tony “Smoke” Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is officially the 2011 Sprint Cup Chase champion. He clinched the prestigious title by winning the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami and breaking the points tie with Carl Edwards by having five wins during the Chase. Stewart started the race in 15th and ended up in victory lane by beating his fiercest competitor Edwards by 1.306 seconds.

“Smoke” led a total of 65 laps, four different times and passed 118 cars throughout the 267-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval racetrack. He overcame obstacles like a hole in his grille after running over a transmission part from another racecar, as well as issues on pit road. He becomes the ninth driver to win three or more championships joining a list of drivers such as Richard Petty (7), Dale Earnhardt Sr. (7), Jimmie Johnson (5), Jeff Gordon (4), David Pearson (3), Darrell Waltrip (3), Cale Yarborough (3) and Lee Petty (3). Additionally, Stewart also becomes the third driver/owner to win a championship with Richard Petty and Alan Kulwicki preceding him. 

 Stewart shared this thoughts on what clinching this championship means to him: “Our Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy was awesome and I can’t thank Darian Grubb (crew chief) and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for all their hard work and all of our partners and sponsors for supporting us,” Stewart said. “I feel like I passed half the State of Florida. I mean, 118 cars is a lot of cars to pass in one race. I don’t care what series you’re in or where you’re at. To do it under the circumstances and the pressure that we had today, I’m very, very proud of that. And, man, I’ve been racing 31 years and I can’t even remember some of the races I’ve won. But I would have to say that, under the circumstances, I’ve got to believe that this is definitely one of the greatest races of my life.”

Grubb had this to say about dealing with the frustrations of high/low moments throughout the season: “Everybody has that in them at some point. I was frustrated many times this year, as well. You have to dig down deep and fight. If you are going to do this 38 weeks a year, you'd better be able to take the lows and highs and not get too upset, and just keep a nice even keel and just keep fighting against what you are fighting against. Luckily this week we got to where we were just fighting against the 99 and beat all 42 competitors to the win and guaranteed that championship.” Overall, Grubb is humbled and excited about the great accomplishment at the conclusion of this dynamic season. 

Tony Stewart, Darian Grubb and the No. 14 race team have definitely made history this season and although it is uncertain as to what the make up of this collaboration will be next season, there is no mistake about how much of a well-oiled machine they can be especially when it counts. 

2. Carl Edwards – Graceful in defeat – By Amanda Ebersole

After leading the points standings for 21 weeks, the season ended in a draw – a tie! Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart both drover their hearts out during the Ford 400.

Edwards led the most laps (119) and was still outrun by Stewart at the end.

Edwards said on his defeat: “I gave them everything we’ve got and my guys did a really good job. We came here and sat on the pole and led the most laps and Tony still managed to do a good job with their strategy, come out in front of us and that was all I had at the end. That is as hard as I can drive.  I told my wife, ‘If I can’t win this thing, I am going to be the best loser NASCAR has ever had and I am going to try really hard to keep my head up and know we will be just as hard to beat next year and the year after that.’ I just hope everybody is proud of the way we performed and our effort. I appreciate everyone’s support. I wish so bad we had that trophy, it just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”

3. Kevin Harvick (-58) Third place once again - By Amanda Ebersole

Third place is becoming all too familiar for Kevin Harvick. After finishing 3rd in the 2010 Chase, Harvick once again finished 3rd this season.

After leading a few laps, handling was Harvick’s biggest challenge of the evening as he said in his post-race quotes. "We struggled a bit with being too loose tonight, but came back and got a decent finish with the Budweiser Chevrolet to end the season. The guys did a good job all year. I'm looking forward to some downtime in the off season and then getting back after it again in Daytona in February."

4. Matt Kenseth (-73) 4th place all around – By Katy Lindamood and Amanda Ebersole

Matt Kenseth is known for flying under the radar and that's exactly what he did on Sunday. With all eyes focused on his teammate Carl Edwards, the No. 17 and its driver brought home a top 5 and finished the season fourth in points. Considering that Kenseth's Chase was full of drama and crashes, the team should be happy with the outcome and the strong season-ending run.

Battling tighter conditions, Kenseth fought hard to bring home a 4th place finish for his team, also finishing 4th in the Chase standings.

“It was a good run for us,” said Kenseth after the race. “The Crown Royal guys did a great job today. They made great adjustments after we kind of got off a bit early in the race. We had the car pretty good but we just weren’t as good as the No. 99, the No. 14 and the No. 56 at the end. Those guys were just a little quicker. Overall, we had a good car, a good run today and it’s not a bad way to close out the season for our No. 17 team.”

5. Brad Keselowski (-84) Wildcard who? - By Rebecca Kivak 

A 20th-place finish in Sunday’s Ford 400 was enough for Brad Keselowski to finish the season in the top 5 in the Sprint Cup standings, but it wasn’t indicative of the No. 2 Miller Lite team's day at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Keselowski started fifth in the season finale and ran in the top 10 most of the day, leading twice for 11 laps. Keselowski was on a different pit strategy from the leaders and with 12 laps remaining, he was running in the top 5 when he had to pit for fuel. The driver of the No. 2 Dodge lost a lap on pit road and finished the race in the 20th position.

“We were better than a 20th-place car, but we took our chances and just didn’t catch the breaks,” said Keselowski. “I’m not frustrated with that. I think that’s the right strategy. I would just like to be a little bit faster. If we can get a little more speed in our cars, I feel like we can go out there and win a championship with this Miller Lite Dodge team (next season).”

It’s been a dream season for Keselowski, crew chief Paul Wolfe and the No. 2 Penske team. The team amassed three wins after Keselowski broke his ankle in a vicious crash during testing. The victories allowed Keselowski to use NASCAR’s new wild card provision to make the Chase for the first time in his two full seasons in Sprint Cup. Finishing fifth in the points – 20 spots up from a 25th-place standing last year – puts the No. 2 in good position for 2012.

6. Jimmie Johnson (-99) The dynasty comes to an end - By Rebecca Kivak 

Jimmie Johnson’s five-year championship reign ended with a whimper Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Engine issues and a spin derailed Johnson’s streak of finishing in the top 5 in the points since his rookie year in the Sprint Cup Series in 2002.

Johnson qualified ninth for the Ford 400. He was running in the top 5 when the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet pulled onto pit road on Lap 105 with a problem. The crew had the hood up on the No. 48 car when three laps later a yellow flag was called for rain. Before a red flag came out, crew chief Chad Knaus ordered the ignition boxes to be replaced, then for the spark plugs and the carburetor to be looked at. In an ESPN interview, Knaus diagnosed the problem as an internal engine issue. Once the red flag ended, the crew went back to working on the car. After the carburetor was replaced, Johnson reported the car was fine, but he restarted the race five laps down because of the issues.

Johnson experienced more problems when he spun out on Lap 141, bringing out the day’s sixth caution. Johnson lost another lap and finished the race a total of six laps down in the 32nd position. The five-time champion fell to sixth in the end-of-the-year standings, the highest-finishing Hendrick Motorsports team in the Chase.

Johnson said during the rain delay that he was “disappointed, we had a fast car.” After the race he tweeted, “Not the way we wanted to finish up the season but that's racing. Thank you everyone for your support and we will be back next year.”

Though the dynasty didn’t end the way Johnson wanted or expected, the magnitude of his history-making five-year consecutive reign will be felt in this sport for years to come – I may never see the likes of it again in my lifetime. Expect Johnson and the No. 48 team to channel the obstacles, defeats and lessons learned from this year into working even harder for their sixth title next year.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-113) - Eleven come seven at Homestead earns Dale Earnhardt Jr. a trip to Vegas – By LJ Cloud

Dale Earnhardt Jr. held onto seventh place in the Sprint Cup standings with a respectable 11th-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway. While his winless streak remains intact, Earnhardt's partnership with crew chief Steve Letarte enabled him to earn his best points finish since 2006 and his first trip to Vegas for the awards banquet.

Earnhardt, Letarte, and spotter T.J. Majors laughed and reminisced about the season during the rain-soaked race, yet still managed to work on the car and finish in the same position they qualified. Earnhardt ran well early, as high as second place, but had some handling issues later in the race.

The No. 88 team ends the season with 4 top 5s, 12 top 10s, an average start of 19.6 and average finish of 14.5. One of the top-5 finishes and three top 10s were in the Chase for a 10-race average finish of 15.1.

According to, Earnhardt said, “(Crew chief) Steve Letarte builds good race cars and that team put together great cars, these are great engines by Hendrick and everybody at that shop they work their guts out—they have all year long,” Earnhardt said. “I feel real fortunate and lucky to be able to drive the cars because they are really nice. I want to thank all those guys that are watching, for all their work all year long. It has been an up-and-down season, but we hope that we can really improve and have more success going forward.”

8. Jeff Gordon (-116) – Already thinking of next season – By Lacy Keyser

To close the season, Jeff Gordon wanted nothing more than to win the final race. Gordon started in 7th and was soon charging and battling for positions early in Sunday's Ford 400. Gordon went on to lead seven laps but championship contender Tony Stewart was charging fast and wanted the top spot. Gordon wasn’t having any luck when the other champion contender Carl Edwards knocked on his door.

Gordon would end up finishing 5th and closing out the year 8th in the points standings.

Gordon spoke on his sponsors and hopes for next year. “I just want to take this moment to thank Drive to End Hunger for being on board this year,” Gordon said. “All the fans and all the different corporations that supported this great program, one in 9 million old Americans going hungry every day in this country, but we are making a big impact, over 4 million meals served this year and don’t forget to text hunger to 5055. Hopefully we can get this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet back in Victory Lane next year.” 

9. Denny Hamlin (-119) – 9th place nets 9th  - By Melissa Wright

Denny Hamlin was the 2010 NSCS runner-up and headed into the 2011 season with hopes of a championship. He ran triple duty this past weekend as all three series came to an end at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hamlin was 37th quick in final practice and started 10th in the season finale.

Hamlin didn't make too much ground on the track during the Ford 400, but he did in the point standings. Hamlin finished out the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup in 9th place after a 9th-place finish and accumulated a total of 119 points.

Hamlin posted this comment on Twitter following the race: “Congrats to Tony on a amazing run. Cardinals ring a bell? Happy to end our season on a decent note. Lots of work to do.”

10. Ryan Newman (-119) Striving to make 2012 Army Strong - By Admin

Ryan Newman had a steady race, spending most of the day in the top 10. With a race-high position of 2nd, Newman finished in 12th place while the attention was focused on his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart.

 "We wanted to be up there contending for the win, but things didn't quite click for us at the end," said Newman. "Our Army Chevrolet was strong, but we couldn't get the track position to make a move as the race was winding down.

"Overall we had a good season, but the downside was that we didn't perform as well as we anticipated in the Chase," explained Newman. "We wanted better results for our Army Strong Soldiers, who inspire this team week in and week out. Driving an Army-sponsored car is a privilege and we're going to do everything we can to make our Soldiers even more proud of their car in 2012." 

11. Kurt Busch (-141) – Broken driveshaft ends Busch's season in disappointment - By Genevieve Cadorette

Kurt Busch reached a milestone on Sunday, his 400th career start in NASCAR. Busch is the 48th driver to reach that mark.

Busch qualified in 4th for the Ford 400 in Homestead-Miami. After driving four laps, he had to bring the car to the garage for lengthy repairs to a broken driveshaft.

“It looks like we broke a driveshaft and that just started a whole series of problems for us,” crew chief Steve Addington explained after the race. “We thought we had the damage repaired just by replacing the transmission and driveshaft, but it turned out that shrapnel off the U-joint flew up and punctured the oil tank and we had to replace that, too. It was just a really tough way to end our season. All we could do was get it fixed and get back out there as quickly as we could.”

Busch didn’t come back out until Lap 51, falling back to 38th position. “It was a sad night for our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team, that’s for sure,” Busch said about the last race. He finished 220 laps of  the race and finished in 34th position.

Busch said after the race, “I've never been so disappointed in my life. I think I missed a race once my rookie year and this almost tops that."

"But we can’t hold our heads down too long when you stop and think of the good fortune we had this year. We started off the season with an incredible Daytona Speed Weeks. We won out in Sonoma on the road course and won again on the ‘Monster Mile’ at Dover. We won three Coors Light Poles. We had eight top-fives and 16 top-10s. We have so much to build on for next season. We’ll go and have a good time in Vegas, take a little breather and then get back hard at it preparing for the 2012 season.”

12. Kyle Busch (-157) – Nothing to lose in the Chase – By Holly Machuga

This Chase has proven to be disappointing for Kyle Busch, who suffered the consequences after an incident at Texas Motor Speedway just weeks ago. It was even more disappointing to see him finish 23rd.

He battled his way to the front, hung around in the top 10, and even led 16 laps, so why wasn’t he there at the end? Simple. He had to pit with eight laps to go for fuel.

“We had a good car with our Interstate Batteries Camry,” Busch said. “We just didn’t have a car that could run with Tony and Carl. It was a good gamble and it just didn’t go our way. We had nothing to lose.”

It's been a very exciting Chase season, thank you for joining us for these 10 weeks. Enjoy the off-season and on behalf of the Skirts and Scuffs team - Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Tony Stewart wins in a stunning and historic tie-breaker Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Tony Stewart wins in a stunning and historic tie-breaker Reviewed by Admin on Monday, November 21, 2011 Rating: 5