Finally! A new champion

For the first time in 5 years, NASCAR is crowning a new (old) champion. Tony Stewart held off Carl Edwards to win his 3rd overall NASCAR championship. As it worked out, this was his first as a car owner and driver. Tony “Smoke” Stewart was the last champion before Jimmie Johnson won his historic 5 consecutive championships.

While it is a great feeling to see a new champion, Tony Stewart wasn’t in position to win this championship at the beginning of the Chase. He had to win 5 races during the course of the “Playoff” to be able to hoist the trophy. This is the first year NASCAR put more emphasis on winning as opposed to consistency and Tony Stewart was the one who reaped the benefit. He always races to win. In the final race at Homestead he had to make over 100 risky passes to get back into first place as he had car problems all day and was pushed to the back of the pack several times. Obviously he and his crew got it right toward the end of the race.

Tony is one of the most “complete” drivers in the NASCAR circuit. He has won championships in midgets, open wheel and of course NASCAR. His savvy behind the wheel and in the shop is hard to match. Obviously he has tamed his famous temper somewhat, grown as an individual and of course honed his driving skills to be the best on the circuit this year. Tony is always competitive. Without a single win in the regular season, he took the checkered flag in five of the eight “chase” races and took home the trophy. Guess you could say he did it when it counted. He is old school with his driving and can tussle with the best of them. He reminds me a lot of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

You know NASCAR has to be thrilled. You have to congratulate Carl Edwards also. What a finish as the two finished the chase actually tied in points. Tony was declared champion as a result of his timely wins in the chase itself. Carl and Tony raced clean and it went down to the last race and the last lap for a champion to be crowned. Doesn’t get much better than that folks! Tony. Congratulations. You made a historic championship run and you bookended the phenomenal championship run of Jimmie Johnson with wins of your own. If this chase is a glimpse of the future of the sport, then the real winners will be the fans…and of course NASCAR.

Love him or hate him, he is absolutely one of the best and most competitive drivers on the circuit. He also has shown a lot of business acumen the way he pulled his team new together after what appeared to be a mediocre season run prior to the “Chase”.

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And then there were two!

There are now only two races left in the NASCAR season which result in two very exciting races left in the “Chase for the cup”. While there are four drivers who are still mathematically in the hunt for the title, there are really only two drivers fighting with a realistic chance to win. Tony Stewart “Smoke” and Carl Edwards “Uncle Carl” will have two races to decide who will take home the ultimate NASCAR prize.

The two remaining tracks on the circuit are ones Carl Edwards won on last year, and obviously one would think he has a slight advantage. However, Tony Stewart has dealt with the pressure of closing a championship out, not once but twice, and knows what it takes to win the coveted title. If there is a perceived advantage for Carl Edwards, it doesn’t mean anyone should count Tony out. The margin is so slim; it is basically the difference of two positions on the trackwhich could lead to a change in the point’s leader.

 There will obviously be a lot of strategy used for both these drivers and crews this weekend. But NASCAR is the big winner at this point. This is theclosest the “Chase for the cup” has ever been and it is creating interest and excitement. Don’t expect to see any of the top four drivers; especially Tony and Carl take any huge risks at Phoenix this weekend. Tony will have to take some calculated risks if he wants to pass Carl and becomeNASCAR champion again. All Carl has to do is just stay on pace with Tony and if he does he should be able to hold him off and win his first championship.Regardless of who you are rooting for, you will have to fasten your seatbelts these next two weeks. NASCAR is loving it. The two races are sure to get crazy and be a wild ride to the finish. Unfortunately there are two great deserving drivers left standing, but only one will be crowned NASCAR Champion for 2011. Tune in folks, it ought to be fun!

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Exciting finish at Talladega, sets up for great season

Yesterday Aaron’s 499 was one of the most exciting races in the history of NASCAR. You had 8 cars within a second of each other and the winner of the race won by .02 in a photo finish. Jimmie Johnson was that fortunate winner with a last turn push from Dale Earnhardt jr, and in the end, there was no way to tell who won until the TV crew showed a super slo mo shot.

If this race didn’t have you standing up in your living room cheering, then you must be dead. Even non NASCAR fans had to love this race. This is an exciting track and it is restrictor plate racing at it’s finest. This has been a great season for NASCAR with most of the races coming down to exciting finish. But this one definitely took the cake and should hopefully help build the excitement around the sport.

While the season is very young and has a long way to go, it just helps add to the log jam that is the season standings. As of right now there are 17 drivers within 100 points of the leader. Which basically means that one bad race for somone near the top and they could be looking out real quick. This is setting up to be an exciting season and could come down to more finishes of this caliber. If you haven’t been watching to this point, then it is time to tune in.

Gordon survives demolition derby to win at Phoenix

Jeff Gordon snapped a 66 race winless streak on what turned out to be a demolition derby of a race. The Subway fresh fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway was set up to be the first real race of the new season, but quickly turned in to a wreck fest. Early on the pole sitter Carl Edwards got into a wreck and immediately had to go behind to wall to make repairs ending his chance at a victory.

Gordon himself even had a little scrape where he had some minor damage, but was able to overcome that to be in position to win the race when it mattered. He was able to hold off a late charge from 2nd place finisher Kyle Busch to seal his first victory under his new sponsor with his new team. After a long winless streak, Gordon looked like last week’s first time winner in victory lane. Jeff Gordon’s name will now be back in the hunt after this victory and he will be a favorite to win next week’s race in Las Vegas.