Tony Stewart won the biggest game of winner-take-all in the history of NASCAR.
Rebounding from a succession of setbacks, Stewart took the checkered flag in Sunday’s rain-interrupted Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to win the Sprint Cup championship in a tiebreaker over race runner-up Carl Edwards.
With four new tires to Edwards’ two — thanks to a strategic gamble that paid off when rain hit the 1.5-mile speedway for the second time on Lap 213 of 267 — Stewart gradually pulled away after a restart on Lap 231 and claimed his third Cup title, bookending the five consecutive championships won by Jimmie Johnson from 2006 to 2010. Stewart also won in 2002.
The victory was Stewart’s fifth of the season — all coming in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup — and the 44th of his career. The bonus points for winning allowed Stewart to make up the three-point lead Edwards held with one event left. Stewart and Edwards ended the Chase tied at the top of the standings, but Stewart claimed the title with five victories this season to Edwards’ one.
Stewart, who left Joe Gibbs Racing to become co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009, became the first owner-driver to win the title since Alan Kulwicki accomplished the feat in 1992.
“We said all week, [if] we just go out and win the race, we didn’t have to worry about what he did — and that’s what we did,” Stewart said in Victory Lane, as rain pelted the winning team. “If this doesn’t go down as one of the greatest championship battles in history, I don’t know what will.”