For the first time in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history, the championship ended in a draw. The Ford 400 also marked the first time since 1975 the eventual champion came from behind to win the championship in the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Two early cautions and a lengthy rain delay added some drama but didn’t change the storyline for today’s NASCAR Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Carl Edwards entered the weekend with the points lead and Tony Stewart in hot pursuit for both the Ford 400 race victory and the first Sprint Cup Series title for a driver-owner since Alan Kulwicki in 1992. When it was over, Stewart prevailed as a three-time series points Champion after winning five races in this year’s Chase For The Sprint Cup Series Championship.
“If this doesn’t go down as one of the greatest championship battles in history, than I don’t know what will,” said Stewart. “I’ve got the best team in the business and it’s just awesome.”
With First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden serving as Honorary Starters, Edwards began his quest for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship from the pole position in the 267-lap race. Stewart’s fifth win of the 10-race Chase was about as dramatic as they could come.
Two cautions — and some damage to the front of Stewart’s car — pushed Edwards lead to 20 points 36 laps into the race. A brief but heavy rain shower stopped the race with 158 laps remaining. The race was delayed 1 hour, 14 minutes before drivers were returned to the track under the lights at 6 p.m. EST.
“I mean we said all week that we just have to out and win the race; we didn’t have to worry about what he did and that’s what we did,” said Stewart.
When the race resumed, Stewart surged into the race lead. As another caution flag came at the race’s midpoint, Stewart held the race lead and they were tied in the point standings. After passing 118 cars during the race, Stewart ended up tied with Edwards in points at 2,403, but won the tiebreaker based on the number of victories this year including tonight’s win. All five of Stewart’s victories came during NASCAR’s postseason while Edwards only had one win which came in the third race of the season at Las Vegas.
“I was very, very impressed with Tony today,” said Edwards. “I’d compete with him in just about anything else to settle this tie.
“My gut feeling in my heart? Right now, I’m disappointed but I’m very proud.”
Stewart’s third championship puts him in the NASCAR annals with some legendary names such as Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip as three time champions. Stewart’s win tonight bookends Jimmie Johnson’s five-year championship run (2005-2010), since his second championship came in 2005. In total, Stewart has now claimed three championships (2002, 2005, 2011).
In addition to offseason bragging rights and the Ford 400 trophy, “Smoke” takes home a 25-foot Tournament Model fishing boat, built by Homestead-based Contender Boats, with a four stroke 300 horsepower Yamaha outboard, trailer and several customized factory options all valued at more than $115,000.