The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Homestead Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday November 21, 2011

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Homestead Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday November 21, 2011


When the “Smoke” cleared at Homestead-Miami, it was Tony Stewart outlasting Carl Edwards in a frenetic final 33 laps, picking up the third Sprint Cup trophy of his 13-year Cup career.

The Key Moment – With 33 laps left to go, Carl Edwards moved into second behind Tony Stewart. For those 33 laps, Edwards gave it his all but he came up a little over a second short.

In a Nutshell – Stewart won five of the ten Chase races. You’re not going to beat that just by being consistent.

Dramatic Moment – Both championship contenders knew in those final 33 laps whoever won the race got the big prize. It was about as intense a race as I’ve seen in a decade.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Finally, two drivers battling not only for a race victory but also a championship in the closing laps of the final race of the season. When these days are someday the good old days, we’ll still be talking about this one.

To add to the drama, the rains returned only minutes after the race concluded. Had it arrived just that little bit earlier, neither Edwards or Stewart was likely to have had enough gas to run under an extended caution prior to a Green-White-Checkered finish. Honestly, the race and the title bout couldn’t have been scripted any better than this.

Speaking of red flags, I’m a little uncertain as to what NASCAR’s protocol is towards when to stop the race and when to allow the field to run under caution when it rains. Allowing the cars to run all those laps under caution allowed Edwards and probably Stewart to save enough gas to make it to the end. What if the race had been red-flagged for that time period?

Remember back at Talladega when Edwards ran around at the back of the pack, playing it safe before charging forward for the final two laps? Well if he’d finished tenth rather than eleventh that afternoon, he’d have won the championship. Maybe there’s a lesson there?

I grind my teeth every time I hear comparisons made between Alan Kulwicki and Tony Stewart both winning titles as owner/drivers. Kulwicki’s team was a tiny organization battling against the super teams of the era. Without denigrating Stewart’s notable accomplishment in winning this year’s title, unless you still wait up for Santa, you understand the No. 14 team is a satellite team of the all-conquering HMS dynasty.

Jimmie Johnson’s five-year championship reign came to an ugly, 32nd-place end at Homestead.

The No. 48 team needs to be more aware TV cameras are everywhere. They were clearly working on their car during the early stages of the red flag period.

Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 crew won the AT&T fastest pit crew award this year. Oddly enough, rumors were rampant at Homestead Sunday morning the entire unit was told their services were no longer needed after today’s race. (Richard Childress later said that no final personnel decisions have been made yet.)

Even with an ultra-tight points battle to determine this year’s championship, what really seemed to make headlines this week was Brad Keslowski’s “secret” fine of 25g for disparaging comments he made on Twitter concerning fuel injection. So let’s see… Kyle Busch gets fined 50 grand for purposely destroying another competitor’s vehicle and title chances, putting that fellow’s life in danger and Keselowski gets fined half that amount for simply speaking his mind? That’s like a 25-year sentence for rolling a stop sign.

I’m not sure how naïve NASCAR officials are in believing they can issue those “secret” fines in this age of the social media where secrets seem to last nanoseconds. About their only hope to obscure the issue is to have Brian France issue another statement on the matter that leaves everyone scratching their heads wondering what the hell he just said. This week’s classic line from the blabbering imbecile was, “If I own a restaurant and I say, you know what, the food in my restaurant is not very good, we’re not going to accept it. It’s as simple as that.” Huh? Does Keselowski now own NASCAR? It’s hard to say he’s even a shareholder in a sport where traditionally team owners and drivers are seen as independent contractors. Now if France were indeed to own a restaurant and he said the food wasn’t very good would he fine himself… secretly… and would that fix the problem? It would seem if the food at the restaurant wasn’t very good, it would behoove the owner to take concrete steps towards improving the quality of the fare. Having tried spoon-feeding increasingly disinterested fans some loathsome swill iced in Porta-potty chocolate frosting that reads “Best Racing Ever,” maybe it’s time France accept the blame himself and not penalize drivers for “denigrating” the sport. See, it really is that simple.

With so much on the line and with it being the final event of the Truck season anyway, I wonder if NASCAR called an end to the Truck race Friday night a little prematurely. Yes, it would have taken some time to dry the track but the rains had already left the area by the time they did the Victory Lane interview. Sauter had been doing everything he had to do, leading the race and leading the most laps to score an upset win in a championship bout with Austin Dillon. (Though to be fair, Denny Hamlin was mounting a strong challenge on Sauter for the lead. But that might have been because Hamlin, knowing it was already raining on the track, went kamikaze knowing the rain might end the race.) Dillon had worked his way back up to tenth place but his truck was blowing ominous smoke signals out the exhaust. His engine might not have lasted the final 17 laps of the race. Either way, we’ll never know. I just find it curious I can recall many races, particularly at Charlotte, NASCAR let run well past midnight despite there not being a championship on the line.

All week, ESPN was bragging they were using an unprecedented 72 cameras to cover Sunday’s championship deciding Cup race. They specifically spoke about using two iso (isolation) cameras glued to the No. 99 and 14 cars so no matter what happened fans at home would see it. So how, exactly, did they miss getting any footage of something “twice the size of a man’s fist” punching out the front grille of Stewart’s car?

To give credit where it’s due, ESPN did stun a lot of fans showing the last quarter of the race virtually commercial free despite having the “Non-Stop” coverage technology in their toolbox.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

There was little else Edwards could have done. He was fastest in the final practice session and won the pole, earning himself the best stall on pit lane. He led the most laps during the race, securing one more bonus point in a title bout that ended as a tie. But in the end, he fell one position short of the championship. After ten months and 14,000 plus miles of racing, Edwards lost a title by about a second and twenty yards.

Johnson’s No. 48 car slowed mysteriously on the track, leading the team to think the engine had expired. It took them five laps to figure out it was actually the carb that had gone bad; that cost them en route to a 32nd-place finish. Fortunately for Johnson, this race was the last one where the teams will use carburetion rather than fuel injection. We’ll just have to wait and see what sort of gremlins pop up with the fuel-injected cars as the new (to NASCAR, at least) technology is rolled out.

Kurt Busch’s transmission lasted all of three laps before expiring in dramatic fashion; after many laps behind the wall for repairs, he wound up 34th. A little going away present from Steve Addington for the hell Busch has been giving him over the radio all season?

David Ragan, who is still awaiting word on whether he has a job for next season, blew an engine in a major fashion and ran 38th. It was also an unhappy exit for UPS, a longtime primary sponsor in the sport which is dramatically cutting back on their involvement with NASCAR next season. (Well, they’ll still be the Official Delivery Company of NASCAR in yet another example of the sport’s top brass stealing sponsorship dollars from the teams.)

Greg Biffle usually runs well at Homestead, but a blown engine left him an unheralded 35th in the final rundown.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

If you’re looking for Jimmie Johnson’s missing golden horseshoe, you might want to check the No. 14 team’s hauler. Early in the race, Stewart ran over a piece of Kurt Busch’s transmission, punching a hole through the grille that could easily have taken out his radiator. Repairing the damage caused Stewart to drop to the rear of the field not once but twice. Trying to charge his way back forward, Stewart barely squeaked between the Fords of Trevor Bayne and Greg Biffle after Bayne made contact with the wall and bounced across the track. During a pit stop later in the event, a hung lug dropped Stewart back into the pack yet again and at that point I was certain he’d lost any chance at the title. Stewart actually ran out of fuel heading into the pits for his final stop, then had to make several more crazy passes to blow by traffic and get back out front. As a final bonus from Lady Luck, the rains held off until just after the race went its scheduled distance. I’m not saying luck handed Stewart a title – those banzai charges on the restarts had a lot to do with it – but after a regular season filled with foul fortune for the fourteen team, good luck gave him a smile and a wink on Sunday. In four hundred miles, Stewart endured more perils than Penelope Pit Stop.

Matt Kenseth had a strong car but banged the wall hard, knocking his steering geometry all askew. Somehow, he still soldiered on to a fourth-place finish.

Kasey Kahne had a rough start to the race and was listed as running 22nd at the red flag delay. The second half of the race worked out a bit better; he drove to a seventh-place finish in his final start for the Red Bull team.

Clint Bowyer drove to a sixth-place finish in his final start for Richard Childress Racing. Ironically, he was the top-finishing driver for the team Sunday.

After a miserable start to the first two-thirds of the season, Jeff Burton racked up yet another top 10 finish (10th) to conclude his year.

Worth Noting

  • Stewart is the first champion to also win the final race of the season since Jeff Gordon did so in 1998. Prior to that, the last driver to earn both honors was Richard Petty in 1971.
  • Edwards scored his 26th top-10 finish in this year’s 36 points-paying Cups races and his average finish for the entire season was 9.6. Most years, that would have been enough.
  • Martin Truex Jr.’s third-place finish was his best since the Bristol night race in August.
  • Kenseth finished fourth for the second time in the last three races. He also finished fourth in the standings, but recalling Martinsville might make him want to drink a fifth of J.D. (Not this new hippie honey J.D. crap, either.)
  • Jeff Gordon (fifth) ended his season with top 10s in three of the last four races.
  • Bowyer (sixth) ended his career at RCR with three straight top-10 results.
  • Kasey Kahne (seventh) produced his seventh top-10 performance in the ten Chase races on Sunday.
  • Denny Hamlin (ninth) had just three top 10 finishes and one top-5 in the Chase.
  • Jeff Burton (tenth) had top-10 results in four of this season’s last five races.
  • The top-10 finishers at Homestead drove five Chevys, three Toyotas and two Fords. Brad Keselowski in 24th was the top running Dodge driver.
  • The top-10 finishers in this year’s points drove six Chevys, two Fords, a Dodge and a Toyota. That’s the news and I am out of here…

What’s the Points?

The final points standings reflect a tie between Stewart and Edwards. The first tie-breaker is the number of wins and Stewart easily eclipsed his rival in that regard, with five wins to Edward’s single victory at Las Vegas early in the year. It is the first time that a tie-breaker has ever had to be used to determine a champion in NASCAR history.

Kevin Harvick held onto third in the final standings, while Kenseth moved up two positions to fourth on the ladder. Brad Keselowski rounds out the top 5 in the points.

Johnson finished sixth in the point totals, the lowest he’s finished a season since his rookie year. Dale Earnhardt finished seventh in the standings, just fourteen points behind Johnson. Who’d have thunk? But he still hasn’t won a race since Moses was in Pharaoh’s high school.

Jeff Gordon moved up three spots in the standings on Sunday to finish eighth. Behind him… talk about a squeaker. Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman both finished 119 points out of the lead. Both of them won one race. Hamlin’s next-best finish was second at Richmond in the spring, while Newman’s was fourth at Kentucky giving Hamlin the nod for ninth on the tie-breaker.

Kurt and Kyle Busch finished eleventh and twelfth in the standings, meaning they won’t be seated at the Las Vegas championship banquet the first weekend in December. Ironically, the Busch brothers hail from Las Vegas, where they’ll doubtlessly be feasting on a Ritalin-laced turkey this Thursday.

Bowyer edged Kahne by six points to take the less-than-coveted 13th finishing position in the standings.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — We’ll give this one the full six-pack. I’m going to have to admit I followed every lap of the race, often standing and pacing around. It’s been a long time since a race has grabbed my total attention start to finish.

Next Up??

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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A Red Carr
11/21/2011 06:53 AM

Very exciting race for a change. Interesting comment about racing harder at Talladega, but any one place improvement in any of the ten chase races would have changed the points finish. I am glad it was Tony’s five wins that gave him the championship! The only better would be if they had tied after 36 races.

11/21/2011 07:37 AM


11/21/2011 07:38 AM

Someone is going to write an awesome book about this season.

Too bad it can’t be you Matt, after slamming the season for 35 weeks, you’d have no cred.

Bill B
11/21/2011 07:42 AM

Congrats to Tony and the 14 team. 5 wins in 10 races is spectacular at any point in the season.

I wonder what message was delivered in the pre-race driver’s meeting. It sure seemed like some of those guys rolled over for both Tony and Carl. Some of those passes Tony was getting away with would not have worked earlier in the season.

Oh well, the season is over…
Feel free to fly about the country.

11/21/2011 08:21 AM

did anyone notice when espn was doing the interview with the first and second ladies that brain fart was in back ground. he looked like he needed his dribble bib. he looked like he had just rolled in from an all-nighter.

so what portion of the trophy will HMS get? guess the media does think that we’re pretty stupid and have blinders on.

if i could only feel as confident picking lottery numbers as i did about the points ending in a tie with the race wins determining the championship.

11/21/2011 08:26 AM

Matt, the only thing bad about Tony’s victory and championship is this: We were SOOOOoooo close to crowning a champion with only one win, and that would have made Brain Farce look like the idiot he is (for instituting the “chase” to counteract Kenseth’s one-win championship) But now, with Tony winning (and in such an exciting way) the aforementioned moron of the high command will be sticking his nose high into the air, so proud of his wonderfully exciting brainchild. Now we’ll NEVER get rid of this stupid chase garbage.

11/21/2011 08:38 AM

I was at the race and the intensity was palpable. 14 gear dominated the stands like 3 gear used to. A lot of people left after the second rain delay. Gave the rest of us room to pace too. It was hardly raining and they missed a great finish. Congrats Smoke!

11/21/2011 08:47 AM

Carl is a much better sport than I am. Tony had an awesome “10” races, no denying that, but Carl had “the best” season.

I will NEVER drink the Kool-Aid, and I will never like the chase.

11/21/2011 08:48 AM

Awesome race! I too found myself pacing with about 20 laps to go and I am really not a fan of either Edwards of Stewart. One thing that I don’t think has been mentioned is what role Brad Keselowski played in this. He held up Edwards just enough at Phoenix so he could not catch Kahne and then again yesterday in that last run of 35 or so laps so Stewart got the 1.2 second cusion. I think that was a very fitting payback.

Carl D.
11/21/2011 09:38 AM

I pointed out the fact that Edwards might well pay for stroking at Talladega in a couple of previous FS comments sections. Am I a prophet or what?

I noticed that you can vote on the fastest pit crew award.. Excuse me, but shouldn’t this award be based on statistics? Otherwise, it’s the fastest most-popular pit crew award.

I heard one of the commentators say that this victory by Stewart is evidence of the importance of winning. Maybe in this case, but had Stewart and Edwards finished 2-3 instead of 1-2, Edwards would have won and the evidence would supported the fact that consistency is more important than winning. I say Nascar should award two more points to the race winner, with an even 50 points available to the winner if he leads the most laps.

Great finish to a pretty decent season. Congrats all around to the #14 team for the tenacity and fortitude that won Stewart his third cup championship.

Stephen HOOD
11/21/2011 09:39 AM

The angst over the chase aside, I think Edwards got what he deserved. The 99 team played the conservative route and they were unable to win when they needed to win. I don’t feel any pity for Carl nor do I think his season was particularly spectacular. Conversely, Tony’s season wasn’t anything spectacular until the last ten or twelve. Tony showed signs of greatness in the beginning which may have set him back through the middle. But, whatever the case, winning 5 of the last 10 races is a fabulous accomplishment, especially considering the rules at play.

Brian France took a huge gamble when he initiated the chase and like most gambles, this year he gets to look like a genius instead of a devious moron. Or, like Tony Stewart, he is one lucky SOB.

11/21/2011 09:43 AM

I think we have to admit that this was a fantastic year for NASCAR, and they needed it. A great points battle, multiple first time winners, several great finishes, and best of all the 48 did not win. Also, a great year in the lower divisions with Cup guys not able to win the driver’s title. Both champions had multiple wins, and ran strong against the Cup guys.

11/21/2011 10:14 AM

To Tony’s credit he has always deflected and said that what he has done in no way compares to Alan Kulwicki. He acknowledged this again last night in the post race press conference when he said that Alan had to build his team from the ground up and and he came in to a team that already existed. Also, it is not like they go over to Hendrick and pick up a ready to race complete car and show up at the track. They receive a bare frame and then finish the car from there. The engine deal is the same as anyone else’s in that there are only about 4 – 6 engine shops out there and everyone is on an engine deal in some way or another. The only ones building their own engines are Childress, Hendrick, and Roush and Gibbs. And Gibbs is scaling back. But that genie will never get back in the bottle.

Michael in SoCal
11/21/2011 10:30 AM

@Janice – I noticed Brian France in the background too. It was a very odd sight.

Anyone else notice Kurt Busch give the bird to a vehicle parked near the garages when he drove behind the wall? I hope he gets penalized for that.

The last thirty laps of this race had me on the edge of my seat.

11/21/2011 10:31 AM

First of all, a big congratulations to Tony for dominating the Chase. He deserved to win under the rules they have now. Winning half the Chase races is a big accomplishment.

While this was an awesome race, I don’t consider it an awesome season. I didn’t watch very many races this year, but the ones I did see at least part of were mostly boring parades playing follow the leader. The two-by-two hookups at Daytona & Talladega were miserable excuses for races.

This race was the exception rather than the rule. Throughout the Chase, most drivers played it conservative in an effort to get what points they could without getting caught up in a wreck. Smoke drove his heart out and won five of the Chase races, but I don’t recall any serious challenges for the win by anyone else but Carl in the final few races. It was the typical boring points racing we’ve seen for years.

It made for a good scripted challenge for the chapmionship between about five drivers, but overall I’d give this season two warm cans of swill.

Mr Blister
11/21/2011 11:01 AM

The Overall Rating was a bit bland Matt…
More like 6 ice cold Coronas with fresh lemon, served by Dallas Cowboy Cheer leader in nothing but her boots!

Bruce Florman
11/21/2011 11:35 AM

If it’s really been a fantastic year for NASCAR, then I’m obviously not a NASCAR fan, since from my perspective it’s been damn near unwatchable.

I missed about 99% of the race yesterday, and based on Matt’s description, I guess that I missed out. I flipped over to ESPN at somewhere around 4:00, and they still seemed to be doing a pre-race show, so I went back to watching a bad football game. Then quite a bit later I checked again, and the commentators were talking about how Stewart had just been instructed to save fuel. I figured – “Crap, another fuel mileage race” – and went back to watching football again. In the mid-90’s I was attending 6-7 races per year in person. This year I doubt that I’ve even watched that many on TV.

11/21/2011 11:37 AM

It was a fine race.

As for the Kulwicki stuff that is just, to me, an example of the false equivalency story all media (sports, political, whatever) just loves because it is easy to repeat without actually thinking. However, being one who loved Oldsmobiles I knew, from the basic configuation of the sheet metal down inside to the works, that they weren’t really different from other GM vehicles. Still I pretended they were.

“What’s next?” 1. Intermindable hype in advance of Daytona based upon this race. 2. Overwrought praise for the Chase and its inventor.

5 beers. Cold and Expensive craft brews.

11/21/2011 11:40 AM

It took a decade but The Chase finally did what NASCAR wanted it to do… Give a driver who had a mediocre regular season a chance at the title if he racked up wins… and Stewart did just that. The last 10 weeks were as exciting as the 1992 season was, in my opinion.

Stewart drove that race like a man posessed—118 cars passed in 267 laps… THAT is how you win a championship Mr Johnson, not stroking your way to a title.

In the end it was the two best drivers of the season, racing 1-2, for the win. Edwards didn’t put a step wrong and neither did Stewart. It was like a Hollywood script.

11/21/2011 11:46 AM

Carl D. – for the first two or three years of that stupid “award” it was by fan vote only—so of course Dale Jr won by a landslide every season. This year Sprint finally realize how stupid it was and made it a “mix” of fan vote and actual statistical data. So I believe Harvick’s team did win it legitimately.

11/21/2011 12:02 PM

Worth noting.. Tony Stewart is the only Winston Cup, Nextel Cup, and Sprint Cup champion. Talk about 3 unique trophies. See you next name change!

11/21/2011 12:11 PM

It looked to me like there were only 2 cars racing. The rest of the field just took up space on the track. Stewart and Edwards passed them like they were sitting still.

11/21/2011 12:18 PM

john notes – “It was like a Hollywood script.”

hmmmmm?? if it’s too good to be true…

Carl seemed destined to loose. He even had an exit strategy by committing to be the “best looser ever.” What’s up with that?

The race certainly was an entertaining and enjoyable “product,” but still I think I’m in the same camp as Gary and I ain’t drinkin’ the cool aid either.

a parting gift from addington? now that’s funny.

11/21/2011 12:22 PM

It was a very exciting culmination to a very competitive season. This must be a real brain-fry for the anti-everything-NASCAR-does crowd to watch such and exciting event being run in cars that they claim to hate under a point system they profess to detest and governed by a sanctioning body that they regularly accuse of being idiots. I enjoyed the season and hate to see it end. But end it must…and in great style.

11/21/2011 12:22 PM

Had Edwards won the championship with Tony winning 5 of the 10 Chase races, the whole thing would have been a farce. NASCAR saved face with Tony winning the whole thing.

Shayne Flaherty
11/21/2011 12:30 PM

Sucks to be the Busch brothers.

11/21/2011 12:37 PM

A couple of decent races do not a great season make. It still SUCKED big time and na$car continued to make an ass out of themselves all season long.
A book about this season,what a joke, would be a couple sentences long,Tony Stewart had a lucky horseshoe implanted in his posterior end of story

11/21/2011 12:44 PM

John- It’s the AT&T pitcrew award,nothing to do with Sprint.
And no matter what, if it’s the FASTEST pitcrew,nothing but time should be involved in determining the winner.Duh, are you related to the France’s

Kevin in SoCal
11/21/2011 01:04 PM

From reading these comments, if Jimmie Johnson wins 4 of the Chase races and/or finishes 2nd, he and Knaus are cheating and dont deserve to win. If Tony Stewart wins 5 of the 10 Chase races, congrats to Tony and his hard work even though he sucked during the regular season. And, without the Chase wouldnt Carl Edwards have won the title with a one-win season?
Makes perfect sense to me!

Joe D.
11/21/2011 01:55 PM

Sorry, but as good as yesterday was, it still doesn’t beat Atlanta in 1992.

(Let’s hope the epilogue is better than 1992’s, though.)

As for “what if’s” for Carl, what if he could he could have passed Bayne on the last lap of the Daytona 500 way back in February and earned those now precious extra three bonus points to start the Chase?

11/21/2011 02:17 PM

Good job Matt and Tony is the champion as it should be, he earned it.

11/21/2011 02:48 PM

I’ll type what most of us guys have been saying for 40 years:

– we don’t give a hoot about consistency – that thought is at the very root of Nascar’s decline.

Winning races is what racing is all about – anything else is contrived BS.

I could have cared less if David Pearson in the Wood Brothers 21 only raced about 20 races a season; he ran to win every one, not ride in the top ten to collect mythical points for a mythical contrived season-long competition that has no bearing on anything racing.

If you aren’t the winner, then you are the loser – period.

Something France will never learn.

11/21/2011 02:56 PM

I also feel that 1992 was the best ending race for the championship, with three drivers with a chance to win (and not in a chase format). Without the chase format this year, Edwards would of won. And we would of had four different winners in last four years, maybe even last five. Also, what happened to the AERO push of the cars for this race. All year everyone complained they could not pass because of the dreaded aero-push. Well with Tony passing 118 cars, it sure didn’t seem to be a problem NOW.

11/21/2011 03:56 PM


weren’t 4 drivers mathematically alive for the 1992 championship?

Kulwicki, Elliott, Allison, and yes, Kyle Petty.

The 1992 Hooters 500 will still go down as the most meaningful NASCAR race of all time.

That being said, I can’t recall the last time I chose NASCAR over the NFL, after my Jags and Skins lost of course.

What else needs to be said, love him or hate him, Tony Stewart can flat out drive a race car. I would almost venture to say he’s the overall best pure US born race car driver of the past 25 years, taking the torch from AJ Foyt.

Last driver I’ve seen storm through the field like he did last night was Dale Junior at the Firecracker 400 in 2001. You have to wonder if he was given the company car from Hendrick.

Finally, I wonder if Ricky Craven’s Rule of 72 played out. Speaking of Craven, I think we are seeing the next Ricky Craven come up through the ranks in NASCAR in Cole Whitt. Maybe it’s the red hair but the kid’s got talent and drives a heady race… when he’s not caught up in someone elses mess. Here’s hoping he’s competing for the Nationwide title next year.

11/21/2011 04:50 PM

The race was just okay, nothing really “spectacular” about it.

Contrived finish by manipulating the points so that there’s only a point or two difference between the chase drivers each week. Ooooh, I’m all atwitter.

HMS and Government Motors win another trophy…. how impressive. I bet Mrs. Obama was happy that her hubby’s team won.

I’d like to put one out there for Jack Roush and Ford Motor Company. They had a good year, without the help of cheated up cars or rules manipulations to help them catch themselves.

Mr Bill
11/21/2011 08:03 PM

Matt, I’m not sure that you are coming back next year so let me say now I will miss you if you don’t come back next year. In the next few years Tony Stewart may fill some of the emptyness we feel with the absence of Dale Earnhardt. I look forward to that. Stick around and enjoy.

11/21/2011 08:16 PM

Kevin of SoCal, One wonders if Tony was getting JJ’s equipment for this Chase…?

11/21/2011 08:42 PM

This race was almost as good as the Kulwicki/Elliott battle.
It would have been better w/o the announcing crew prattling on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on, over and over and over and over about he who wins the race wins the Championship and how Tony had the tie breaker.
These clowns need to learn when to Just Shut The F Up for a few laps.

Tom Dalfonzo
11/21/2011 09:28 PM

“Honestly, the race and the title bout couldn’t have been scripted any better than this.”

Actually yes, it CAN be scripted way better than that, Matt. NASCAR should’ve thrown a caution flag with 5 laps to go, set up a green-white-checkered finish, let Stewart & Edwards REALLY battle it out for 3 laps, then the 2 go Craven & Busch across the line at the checkered flag. THAT’S how you script it.

11/21/2011 09:58 PM

I don’t get it… how does Stewart just start winning races at an alarming rate after struggling to field a top 10 car most of the season? The #14 drove past cars like it was 50 lbs lighter than the other cars in the field… I never hear Stewart or his crew chief say “we found something “ or we “hit on something and it’s made a world of difference”. It was in Nascar’s interest for Stewart to be champion with the multiple wins, although Edwards would most likley be maybe even more marketable as a new champion. But Stewart has a bigger fan base. Glad people enjoyed it. It’s still the most watchable motorsport on tv.

11/21/2011 10:24 PM

A great season. Carl Edwards need not be disappointed with his performance. He was half of the reason this chase was the best one yet.

Funky D
11/21/2011 11:26 PM

Like Leo, I made the drive to Homestead (11 hours’ worth!) to see the race. I was there in 2002 & 2005 to watch Tony hoist the trophy and didn’t want to miss another chance. I hoped to see Tony win, I did not expect to witness an epic!

Leo was right, 14 fans popped up like dandelions at the track! When Smoke made the banzai dives into turn 1, the wind actually changed direction from everyone taking a deep breath! You didn’t need the public address announcer or TrackScan to tell that Tony had taken the bit in his mouth and was determine to take the title from Carl. He came in with a “Checkers or Wreckers” mindset and pulled it off.

It had all the feel of a 15-round heavyweight bout, and the sight of Tony and Carl up and checking out on the rest of the field while trying to take the lead was hard to believe, even though you were watching it unfold before your eyes.

We get the Alan Kulwicki comparison. We understand that Alan did it himself and was a unique accomplishment. We also understand that that isn’t the way it is in high-dollar NASCAR-land, and Tony’s owner/driver title is the closest thing we’ll get to it. Those who care, know, and those who don’t know…

Even though Tony put on a chase to be remembered by driving like the devil himself, I’d still like to see the chase eliminated and go back to the full-season format.

For me, this race deserves a 6-pack of Dublin Dr. Pepper, made with Imperial sugar, served over 3 ice cubes!!

11/21/2011 11:42 PM

This race was so good that my wife, who is not a race fan, was on the edge of her seat.

BTW Matt, if they would have red flagged the race they would have saved even more fuel.

Bad Wolf
11/22/2011 12:34 AM

I remember at the launch of the Chase Brian France promised that every race of the season would be like yesterdays, with the drivers going all out for the win and not points racing.

One great race out of the Chase era is not something to brag about, but I guess that since they are so few and far between now it makes it so much more special when it does happen every decade or so.

11/22/2011 12:40 AM

@DonkeyKong – I think the secret is out that he got the best from Hendrick those last few races. Hell he ran like a mid-pack also-ran all year. You don’t “turn-it-around in this day and age over the course of a few races, it takes months of chassis development and engine work. I’m not surprised that it happened mind-you, just sad to see another championship manipulated by the haves.

Did anyone notice Harvick blocking Carl on restarts? He took the lane in front of Carl twice that I saw and then sorta just stopped in the corner. Oh, and I too saw K Busch give someone the finger in the garage area. Thought it might have been his crew.

11/22/2011 10:35 AM

i still say the fix was in for Stewart and Edwards to finish 1, 2 or vise versa…the last rain delay nascar had them run a bazillion caution laps in order for both contenders to finish, instead of red flagging it.

11/22/2011 10:36 AM

To mkrcr

Yellow flag laps use up less fuel than green flag laps. So if it would of been red-flagged, they would of had to run more laps under green, and would of had less fuel at the end.

11/22/2011 12:01 PM

I have a real hard time buying that this was some sort of conspiracy to get Tony the championship. Edwards is the “poster boy” for the future of NASCAR, from a marketing standpoint the championship for him would’ve made much more sense.

Tony “suddenly” started winning after he got his first World of Outlaws Sprint Car victory up here at Ohsweken Speedway in Brantford Ontario. He said so in an interview yesterday… He was still driving “ok” but he’d lost the desire/hunger to go out there and beat everyone into submission. The win at Ohsweken “re-lit” the fires. Sometimes a new outlook means a lot. Just need to see how he talked to his crew BEFORE September, and after September. Is it so hard to imagine that attitude makes a difference, especially in the driver?

11/22/2011 01:49 PM

Isn’t it ironic that the new Homestead is so much like the old Atlanta, and the best finale since 1992 played out there? Why did they have to mess with the old Atlanta again?

11/22/2011 04:42 PM

Except for the 2 and 14 late season spurts it was yet another boring year…with one fantastic race to con me back for another look in February.

11/22/2011 05:14 PM

What about the fact that Tony has an IRL Championship? He could be one of the best drivers of all time (Andretti?)

Don Mei
11/22/2011 05:55 PM

Foyt, Gurney, Andretti; all legends capable of winning in champ car, Nascar, Formula 1, Le Mans. Stewart is right there with them. Sad thing is there is so much money and corporate nonsense in motorsports today that drivers don’t “cross over” the way they used to.