Almost nothing can be explained in regard to Tony Stewart's regular-season performance in comparison to his final result in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
It's adequate to say, at most, that Stewart, in his most candid of moments, admitted that there was almost no point of him and his team being included in the Chase based on their past performance.
Going into the Chase, this would be difficult to argue.
Somehow, he was able to rip off victories in the first two Chase races.
Not to be outdone, he mirrored his early Chase performance with consecutive victories at Martinsville and Texas that finally awoke national media to his potential to obtain a third title.
Martinsville should have been the eye-opener: Stewart openly issued the challenge for Edwards to guard his sleep.
Fast forward to the final race of the season.
Stewart was relegated to 40th place due to grill problems at one point during the Homestead race finale, but he was not worried. His message to his self-employed team was, more or less, "I know some of you have not won a championship, but ride my back and I will take you there."
Over the course of 300 laps, Stewart was able to overtake Edwards and have him outfoxed on quick pit-stops.
Who is the next first-time champ?
Stewart was a lost cause before this Chase. He had no wins, few top-fives and only anger to show for his final results.
In any event, he found his rhythm during the conclusion of the season—the best time, by far, to catch an everlasting fire!
For whatever reason, Smoke decided to bring the field to its knees during the Chase. Not only did he dominate the field during the final 10 races, he rewrote the book on how to dominate a Chase and rip the heart out of any contender who chose to challenge him.
Make no mistake, Carl Edwards will return to the confines of Roush Fenway Racing a better man and driver. His only detracting factor now is that he needs to take the blue oval to Victory Lane over the "bow-tie" that Chevrolet just posted as a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship winner.