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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Daytona 500 Preview

It is that time of year again for the NASCAR Sprint cup series to kickoff with its annual super bowl. The biggest race of the season is the first race of the season, but this year there is a lot going on around the racing that usually isn’t always a factor. This year there have been changes to the points structure and some other new rules that may or may not have an effect on things during the race. But the thing that is looming large over this massive Taj Mahal of racing is the anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt. Probably the biggest death in the sport and luckily the last for now.

There will be an in race tribute to the fallen star, plus I am sure there are to be many more tributes around the track that will not be seen on television coverage. But as far as on the track action, it seemed like it may be a weekend of destiny when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the poll on qualifying day. But in typical junior fashion, he ended up wrecking and having to go to a backup car that will now make him start at the back of the pack. This doesn’t mean that he won’t have a chance at winning the race, but it just makes it a whole lot tougher to get in contention.

With the new pavement at the track, it has taken away the “Pack” mentality of racing and drafting that fans have known and love for so long. If you watched the nationwide race, then you saw that it was easily a two car group that will make the most moves. This year’s race may break records for lead changes and could be very entertaining in the final laps as anyone within the top 10 has a shot to make that last lap pass. So, be sure to find your new roster of drivers for this year’s race, because there have been a lot of changes in who is driving for what company and some even have new numbers and paint schemes this year.

The favorites to win this race will be the usual suspects, but I have found myself leaning toward five drivers who could easily win this race. So I will give you my top 5 and a dark horse pick just for grins.

  1. Kurt Busch
  2. Tony Stewart
  3. Clint Bowyer
  4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  5. Kevin Harvick

And lastly the dark horse pick for the Daytona 500 is Brad Kesolowski.

I am sure most race fans will get goose bumps when our favorite announcer DW throws out his favorite tag line of “Boogity Boogity Boogity! Let’s go Racin boys”