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Tony Stewart's Legend Hits Stratosphere with Amazing Championship

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent INovember 21, 2011

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 20:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 and the 2011 Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida. Stewart wins his third NASCAR Championship.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Tony Stewart just pulled off the most impressive day of driving that NASCAR has ever seen.

Stewart entered Ford 400 trailing Carl Edwards by just three points in the quest for the championship. 

For all intents and purposes, whichever driver finished higher was going to win the championship.

As it turned out, it took winning the race to do that. Stewart and Edwards finished first and second. But the dramatics went beyond that.

The main excitement came from Tony Stewart's driving. He was bold, aggressive, a little crazy and breathtaking. Stewart worked his way from back in the pack on several occasions in this race. He got pinned in the pits a few times, and on one late pit stop the crew had a delay when changing his tire.

Stewart quickly made up for any lost positions in the pits. He was amazing on restarts. Smoke clearly had a strong car, but in this case it is more appropriate to say his car had a strong driver. You just don't see stats like this from a NASCAR race:

On several occasions Stewart went four-wide coming out of restarts. And every time it seemed to work.

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HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 20:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, pass Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

He pushed his car to the brink of physics and managed to pull out unscathed time and time again. His aggressive driving over shadowed everyone in the field. And it would have been hard for even ardent Carl Edwards supporter to not start cheering for him.

Stewart's legend was cemented before this race was even over.

Stewart did win the race, and the championship.

Historical Context

This was the closest finish in NASCAR history. In fact, they actually ended tied. Stewart won on the fact that he won more races.

It was an amazing race to conclude an extraordinary set of circumstances.

Only in 1979 was the points race ever closer going into the final race. Richard Petty trailed Darrell Waltrip by two points.

The King overtook Waltrip for the crown by finishing fifth to Waltrip's eighth. That was incredible. Stewart and Edwards first and second finish is unbelievable.

And Smoke's driving is the stuff of pure legend. Racing fans will never forget this day, and Tony Stewart will forever be one of racing's most celebrated champions because of it.

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