Tony Stewart makes history at Homestead

November, 22, 2011

You couldn't have asked more of a season that included 18 different winners, a points battle that ended in a dead heat and was decided on a tiebreaker and a NASCAR stats blogger who provided about 80 blog posts throughout the season.

I won't lie: Sometimes, this job can be really cool. One of those times was Monday, when Tony Stewart was on the ESPN campus and I got a chance to ask him about his run to a title and what, to me, was the lasting moment of this race -- his thrilling, four-wide pass in his mad dash to the front.

Putting on my analyst's hat for a second, it wasn't just that he made it four-wide, it's the fact that he could drive it down on the bottom, make it stick and make the pass, while most drivers could only make passes if they had the high line, struggling to keep it underneath another car.

Stewart then gave me a quick lesson about the line he was taking, how it differed from the line others were taking, and how he managed to hone that type of move driving on dirt tracks throughout the year.

A cool experience for little ol' me, and a perfect segue to my final three-tiered notes of the season.

Historic win

It's a little early to go lightning-round mode, but let's recap some history.

Stewart became:

• The ninth driver to win at least three Cup titles.

• The seventh driver to win a Cup title with two teams.

• The seventh owner/driver to win a title.

• The fourth driver to enter the final race out of the lead, and win the title.

Take a deep breath, as you're not going to see that much history made often.

Trivia break! Who are the other six drivers to win Cup titles with two different teams?

A win to win it all

Another rare feat Stewart pulled off is a win in the finale by a driver who also won the championship.

Stewart's the first driver to do it since Jeff Gordon in 1998, and just the seventh driver overall. Before that, the last time it was done was by Richard Petty at Texas World Speedway in 1971.

Trivia break! Before Stewart, who was the last 40-year-old to win a Cup title?

Don't forget about Carl

It's sobering to think that it would've taken Carl Edwards only one more point for him to win his first Cup championship.

There were two Chase races in which he didn't lead a single lap. How about the Southern 500, when he couldn't get around Regan Smith in the closing laps for the win, costing him three bonus points?

Or the Chase Talladega race, where he finished 11th, 0.03 seconds behind 10th-place Martin Truex Jr.

Nonetheless, Edwards finished the Chase with an average finish of 4.9, the best mark in Chase history, but not enough to overcome the 15 bonus points Stewart got for his five wins.

Trivia break! Besides Edwards, which two drivers in Cup history finished second in points multiple times but never won a title?

Trivia break answers

1. Terry Labonte, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Ned Jarrett, Buck Baker and Tim Flock.

2. Dale Jarrett was 42 when he won the Cup in 1999.

3. Mark Martin did so five times, James Hylton three times.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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