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This is old news I know, but Tony Stewart is the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and he did the old fashioned way… he and his team worked for it. When the Chase started, many thought they were probably the least likely to win and they may have been right. That didn’t detour the now three time champion or his team and all they needed were a few things to go their way and they would build on the momentum and race their way to ownership of the most treasured title in NASCAR.
I don’t think anyone will deny that the #14 Team made gutsy calls, pressed the competitive envelope and NASCAR fans everywhere were treated to a hard charging driver that refused to let circumstances get him down and, even when things weren’t going well during a race or a weekend, he lifted himself and his team above the problems and ended up winning five of the ten Chase races, something no one really expected to happen. Every race saw Tony Stewart pressing to win and being aggressive from the start of every race, especially the last five in the Chase.
At no time in the Chase was he willing to accept just running a careful points race and several times during the last few races, he took what many called unnecessary chances. In the end, it all came down to him passing one more car, Jeff Burton, to gain one more point on the last turn of the last lap of the race at Phoenix and that kept him within 3 points of Carl Edwards going into the last weekend at Homestead. Had it not been for his determination to get every point out of every race in the Chase, he would have probably finished second in the Championship. (Well… we all know how that turned out, don’t we?)
Carl Edwards had a great season and even though it turns out he tied Stewart for the Championship, he finished second because of his lack of trips to Victory Lane. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. Carl Edwards had a great year and is a great driver. One can only think he learned from this loss and will be an even more formidable competitor for the Championships in the future. Just a quick glance at his stats for this year shows he was the most consistent finisher with 26 top tens and that says something about the year he had. I just don’t see him laying down and being less competitive in the future. In fact, this fan expects to see him coming on strong again next season.
Probably the two most disappointed drivers, (at least from this fan’s view), would be the Bush brothers. Kyle had another disappointing Chase and I am sure he wonders why when they get to the Chase he seems to go backward for one reason or another. Of course, he can only blame himself for part of his twelfth place finish in this one. His actions at Texas definitely put him in a hole and his twenty-third place finish at Homestead didn’t help a bit. It wasn’t that he wasn’t trying, but it did appear to this fan he was just trying to get through this race and looking to a fresh start in the 2012 season. From my view, he is maturing and will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
Kurt Bush’s blown transmission put a cap on a disappointing Chase for him. It seems to me, his rants and raves on the radio this year didn’t do a thing to stop unexpected part failures or improve his position in this Chase. He dropped three positions to eleventh, just sixteen points ahead of his brother in twelfth. I understand he is high strung and gets pumped when in race mode, but eventually there has to be more than complaints coming from the driver’s seat over the radio. It may be only my opinion but it would have to get old if I were a crew chief or crew member on his team. I’m not taking anything away from his talent as a driver because I know he is a very good one. I’m just saying working on developing a few people skills might help the entire team do better in the end.
Of all the Hendrick teams, Jeff Gordon may have had the most satisfying Homestead race of them all with his fifth place finish. He had a car that could run up front but they did lose the handle on it just slightly as they transitioned into the darkness. I would think he and his crew will take their top five performance into the new season and take another stab at winning Jeff’s fifth Championship.
Richard Childress Racing had three cars in the top ten but one of them, Clint Bowyer, will be moving to Michael Waltrip Racing and taking his hopes and momentum with him. I don’t see him looking back, though. I am sure he is looking forward to a fresh start in 2012 with MWR.
From this fan’s view, 2011 was a stellar year for NASCAR. The Cup series saw as good a racing as any year in the recent past. It seems every decision NASCAR made from the points system to the front end of the cars was the right move for the sport. I’m not saying there isn’t still some controversy about some of the decisions they made during the season, but overall, they proved why NASCAR is still at the top of the list in the racing world.
This past year was one of the best I can remember and the finale at Homestead couldn’t have been more dramatic. It went exactly as I hoped it would and the championship was in doubt until the checkered flag dropped, ending the season and seeing both Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards tied in points and the one with the most victories named the 2011 Cup Champion.
Unfortunately, from this fan’s view, NASCAR has a very difficult task ahead of them in 2012. Can next season top this one…?
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 22, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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