Roger Diez: Stewart claims title in drama filled finale
For the Nevada Appeal
Wow. That’s all I can say after watching Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Tony Stewart showed that he belongs in the conversation of the greatest race drivers of all time, coming through the pack twice, making more than 100 passes, and holding off rival Carl Edwards in the closing laps to take the victory and the championship. It was a first in NASCAR history that the season points race ended in a tie, the first time a driver has won five Chase races, and the first championship for an owner/driver since Alan Kulwicki in 1992. Stewart also joined a very elite group of drivers who have won three championships in NASCAR’s top division: David Pearson, Lee Petty, Darrell Waltrip, and Cale Yarborough. Jeff Gordon has won four, Jimmie Johnson five, and Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. seven each. Stewart opined that he didn’t deserve to be in the Chase after the regular season, but certainly proved that he was worthy of inclusion after the playoffs started.
Carl Edwards also showed that he has class, walking over to Stewart’s car after the race to congratulate him, consoling crew chief Bob Osborne, and giving a gracious post-race interview. I sincerely hope that Carl can win his first championship soon, and not become the next Mark Martin. Martin holds the current record for the most second-place championship finishes with four, most recently in 2009. One of the nicest guys in the sport, Martin will leave Hendrick Motorsports to drive part time for Michael Waltrip Racing next season.
On the other side of the good sportsmanship coin, NASCAR has fined Kurt Busch $50,000 for “inappropriate hand gesture and abusive language” as well as disrespect toward a media member. Busch apparently had a temper tantrum after experiencing transmission failure early in the Homestead-Miami race. Perhaps the Busch boys can get a family discount at the anger management clinic.
Congratulations are also in order for newly crowned Nationwide series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon the youngest-ever winner of the Camping World Truck series championship. Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, will move to the Nationwide series full time next season. Roush-Fenway Racing took the owner’s championship in Nationwide, and Kevin Harvick’s KHI Racing won the Camping World Truck owner’s title.
Sunday’s Formula One race in Brazil is the final hurrah of the 2011 racing season. With Sebastian Vettel already crowned driving champion and Red Bull taking the constructor’s title. However, there still are some scores to be settled. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso can overtake McLaren’s Jensen Button for second in the point standings by gaining 11 points in the race; Red Bull’s Mark Webber could move past Alonso into third if he picks up 13 points on the Spaniard; and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren can pick up fourth place in the season standings by gaining six points on Webber. Vettel has won 11 races this year, Button and Hamilton have three victories apiece, and Alonso has one win. Hamilton was fastest in Friday practice in Brazil. His teammate Button and the Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes drivers all are at the top of the timing charts.
It will be interesting to see if the race continues the “boys have at it” attitude that seems to have migrated over from NASCAR. This season has seen more bumping and wheel-to-wheel contact than any in recent memory, particularly between Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
Finally, if you are a Sirius XM Radio subscriber, be sure to listen to the fifth annual “Stewie Awards” this Thursday live from Las Vegas. The awards are a tongue in cheek tribute to the NASCAR season, presented by Tony Stewart and Matt Yocum. Categories include “Best Original Drama”, “Bonehead Move of the Year,” “Best Vocal Performance,” “Best Original Comedy,” “Boys Have at It Award,” “Best Driver 2 Crew Chatter,” “Hal Needham Award (Best Stunt Sequence)” and more. If you happen to be in Las Vegas Thursday evening, stop by the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to watch the broadcast, which is open to the public.