TONY STEWART WINS HIS THIRD NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion following a thrilling victory in the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Stewart took his fourth and final lead of the race with 36 laps remaining and finished a little more than one second ahead Carl Edwards. Stewart won a points tie-breaker with Edwards, five victories to one, overcoming a three-point deficit in the finale’.
“What an incredible championship run Tony put on this year,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Winning a record five of the 10 Chase races and overcoming a deficit in the final race is the very definition of a champion. But, he had been there before and he handled that pressure like the champion that he is.”
After going winless in the first 26 races of the season, Stewart won the first two races of the Chase, at Chicago and New Hampshire, and later added back-to-back victories at Martinsville and Texas before closing the season with the win at Homestead.
Stewart, who previously won titles in 2002 and 2005, becomes the eighth driver in series history to win three championships. Chevrolet now has won 28 driver’s championships, including each of the last seven. Stewart started the streak in 2005, and Jimmie Johnson won an unprecedented five in a row from 2006-2010.
Buck Baker won Chevrolet’s first driver’s championship in 1957.
Tonight’s victory was the 44th NSCS win for Stewart. He led four times for a total of 65 of the 267-lap race that was delayed by rain three times. Fighting back from adversity that sent him to the back of the field twice as a result of repairs made on pit road by the Darian Grubb-led crew, Stewart passed 118 cars on the way to Victory Lane and the Championship.
“After the way those first 109 laps went today, said Stewart from Victory Lane. “I could not be more proud. We had the problem early and had the hole in the nose, everybody on this Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy team did a great job of getting it back going, then we had the contact with (David) Reutimann and had to come back in and fix it again. I told them “Man, it is really going to make these guys mad when we come back twice and still kick their butt”. It was optimism and trying to keep the guys pumped up and then to come out here and actually do it, is awesome.
“We just fought. This Office Depot/Mobil 1 team is just incredible,” said Darian Grubb, Stewart’s crew chief. “We just didn’t give up. We kept fighting. We went out and earned this championship and showed we’re true champions.”
Four-time NSCS Champion Jeff Gordon drove the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet to a fifth place finish in tonight’s race. The strong run moved Gordon up to eighth in the final standings. He garnered three wins during the year.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, finished eighth in tonight’s race to finish third in points with four victories during the season.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, finished sixth and Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet finished 10th to give Team Chevy five of the top-10 finishers in the race.
Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, finished sixth in points after a lengthy stay on pit road and a spin on-track put him six laps down to the leaders relegating him to the 32nd finishing position.
With his 11th place finish tonight, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, finished seventh in the final standings.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army Chevrolet, was the 12th place finisher in the season finale and stands 10th in the final standings to give Team Chevy six of the top-10 drivers in the final top-10 standings.
Carl Edwards (Ford) finished second in tonight’s race. Martin Truex, Jr. (Toyota) finished thrid and Matt Kenseth was fourth to complete the top-five finishers.
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER AND 2011 SPRINT CUP CHAMPION:
WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS AND FEELING RIGHT NOW STANDING HERE AS A THREE TIME CHAMPION AND THE FIRST CAR OWNER CHAMPIONS THAT WE HAVE HAD IN ALMOST 20 YEARS? “After the way those first 109 laps went today, I could not be more proud. We had the problem early and had the hole in the nose, everybody on this Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy team did a great job of getting it back going, then we had the contact with (David) Reutimann and had to come back in and fix it again. I told them “Man, it is really going to make these guys mad when we come back twice and still kick their butt”. It was optimism and trying to keep the guys pumped up and then to come out here and actually do it, is awesome. It is an honor to be in the same category with Alan Kulwicki, but Alan did it all on his own and I have a great co-owner with Gene Haas and Joe Custer helped put all this together with Rick Hendrick and Just could not be more proud of our guys and our organization. Everybody Ryan Newman, my teammate, everybody on the US Army/ Tornados Chevy just an honor to be here tonight.”
YOU MADE A COUPLE OF MOVES OUT THERE THAT WERE AMAZING, TALK ABOUT THOSE MOVES? “That shows how bad I wanted to win this thing. During the season you give guys a little more room than that, but when you are going for a championship, you can’t hold anything back. I was racing around good guys when I did that all night and we just could not leave it on the table, we had to go on the restarts. That was a strong suit for us all night. We took off that one restart I think 12th and came off the corner 5th or 6th on the outside. It is just an awesome night when your car drives that good and you can go get it done like that.”
THOSE LAST TWENTY LAPS CARL (EDWARDS) STARTING CLOSING IN, AND THEN YOU STARTED TO PULL AWAY; DID YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT THEN? “Yea, I made sure that if we got in traffic that I had a little something in my back pocket to go with. We took care of it, we knew he was going to have to run hard to catch us and going to have to abuse his tires and if we just ran our pace, when we got to traffic or if he closed in anymore that we could go when we needed to.”
YOU ARE NOW IN THE SAME CATEGORY AS GUYS LIKE PEARSON, WALTRIP, LEE PETTY, ALL HALL- OF –FAMERS, A THREE TIME CHAMPION YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? “It is an honor, that is an impressive group to be with and just an honor to have the opportunity to be a part of that with those guys and like I said if it were not for Gene Haas and Joe Custer and everybody at Haas Automation, Darian Grubb, we would not have had this opportunity. Just very proud to have got a group of guys that believed in us when we started and Office Depot is the first company and then to have Mobil 1 to come on board this year, just truly, truly an honor to be here with these guys.”
THE THIRD ONE AND I AM SURE THE MOST SPECIAL: “Yea and you owe me a six-pack for this too!”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – 2011 NASCAR SPRINT CUP DRIVER’S CHAMPION:
“I made sure that if we got in traffic that I had a little something in my back pocket to go with. We took care and we knew that he was going to run hard to catch us and was going to have to abuse his tires and if we just ran our pace that when we got to traffic or if he closed in anymore that we needed to go when we needed to.”
YOU ARE NOW IN THE SAME CATEGORY WITH GUYS LIKE DAVID PEARSON, DARRYL WALTRIP, CALE YARBOROUGH, LEE PETTY; ALL HALL OF FAMERS. YOU’RE A THREE-TIME CHAMPION. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? “That’s an honor. That’s an impressive group to be with. It’s just an honor to have the opportunity to be a part of that with those guys. Like I said, if it wasn’t for Gene Haas and Joe Custer and everybody at Haas Automation and Darian Grubb, we wouldn’t have had this opportunity. So I’m just very proud that I’ve got a group of guys that believed in us when we started this. Office Depot was the first company and then to have Mobil 1 come on board this year was just, we’re truly, truly honored.”
TWO OF NASCAR’S HEAVYWEIGHT’S GOING TOE TO TOE AND HEAD TO HEAD IN THE FINAL LAPS, AND YOU WON IT AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP. WHAT’S YOUR EMOTION RIGHT NOW? “Oh, thank the Lord for this one, buddy; man I’m telling you, it’s been a tough summer and a tough fall for us and you’ve got to believe in something; and the man upstairs held this rain off just long enough for us to get this job done. Thanks to all the fans who stuck it out all weekend here at Homestead. Oh, my! I don’t care how long it rains; I’m going to be up all night tonight! For Office Depot for Mobil 1 for Chevrolet for the U.S. Army for Tornados and Quicken Loans and GoDaddy and Ritz and Oreos and Coca-Cola; just everybody who is a part of the Stewart-Haas program; Mac Tools, we couldn’t do it without you guys. This is just unbelievable. We said all week we’d just go out and win the race and we didn’t have to worry about what he (Carl Edwards) did and that’s what we did. If this doesn’t go down as one of the greatest championship battles in history, I don’t know what will.”
IN THE FIRST 100 LAPS, YOU HAD TO GO FROM BACK TO FRONT TWICE. THREE AND FOUR-WIDE PASSES ON THE RESTARTS AND THEN THE GAMBLE ON FUEL. HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU THAT MAYBE THERE WERE JUST TOO MANY OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME AFTER ALL YOU WERE HAVING TO BATTLE TONIGHT? “There is one thing I learned when Gene Haas and Joe Custer gave us this opportunity and our good buddy Rick Hendrick and I couldn’t do it without you bud and everybody at Hendrick Engines and Chassis. And Darian Grubb, and everybody on this team has just dug deep and never given up and this is an awesome night. Eddie Jarvis and everybody at Stewart Haas Racing. I’ve got the best team in the business and it’s just awesome. I’m so grateful to be able to do this for Gene Haas because this man has invested a lot in this sport and for him to have the faith in me to do this; it takes a lot to do what he’s done and I’m glad I can get this done for him.”
THAT NO. 14 BELONGED TO YOUR HERO AND FRIEND, A.J. FOYT, WHO SAID YOU COULD TAKE THE NUMBER BUT DRIVE IT WITH THE TENACITY OF A TEXAN. TONIGHT YOU WON A CHAMPIONSHIP THE WAY HE WON THEM, UP ON THAT WHEEL AND REFUSING TO LOSE. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO TAKE THIS NUMBER, HIS NUMBER, BACK TO A CHAMPIONSHIP STATE? “I guarantee you I’ll probably talk to him tonight and he’s still going to tell me what I did wrong today (laughs). But I’m so proud. A.J. has always been one of my heroes and he’s been very supportive of this when we did this. When I asked him if it would be all right if I took his number, he was the one who gave me his blessing and it meant the world to me.”
WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU SAW CARL EDWARDS BACK THERE, KNOWING HE WAS GOING TO DO EVERYTHING HE COULD TO TRY TO CATCH YOU? YOU HAD TO WIN THE RACE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “Those guys have done an awesome job all year and my buddy Ricky Stenhouse won the Nationwide Championship yesterday and Jack (Roush) got the Owner’s Championship so I didn’t feel bad taking this one away from them tonight. But he’s a great competitor and a great guy and we’ve been giving him a rough time this week. But it was all in an effort to do what we did tonight and win this championship. But it shows how classy a guy he is. He was the first one to me over there. And he said, ‘Promise me one thing that you’ll enjoy this and I hope it’s you and me in this position again next year.’ So that just shows how much class he’s got. He’s a great guy.”
DARIAN GRUBB, CREW CHIEF, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET:
YOU SAID EARLIER TODAY THAT NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN YOUR TEAM, YOU’VE JUST GOTTEN THE BREAKS TO GO YOUR WAY IN THE CHASE. TONIGHT YOU MADE YOUR BREAKS; YOU FOUGHT BACK FROM DIFFERENT CHALLENGES AND GAMBLED ON FUEL. HOW DID YOU DO IT TONIGHT? “We just fought. This Office Depot/Mobil 1 team is just incredible. We just didn’t give up. We kept fighting. We went out and earned this championship and showed we’re true champions.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 US ARMY CHEVROLET, FINISHED 12TH: WHAT A DAY FOR STEWART-HAAS RACING: “Yea, it was pretty good on one side of it. Really proud of Tony (Stewart) and his guys. They delivered in the Chase when they needed to and obviously it kind of came out of nowhere. Really proud of them, really proud of everybody; all our partners at Stewart-Haas Racing. Thank you to Chevrolet for all they do. And the US Army. It’s amazing. It’s kind of bittersweet when it’s not you, but it is awesome when it is your teammate.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET, FINISHED 11TH: ON HIS RACE AND SEASON: “The race was ok. I would have liked to have finished in the top-10 and we had a good enough car all day to run there. But, I don’t know, the rain made our car just not handle the way we needed it to at the end. It was great at the start of the race. We got to handling kind of poorly there the last half of the race. But we still managed to do ok. We’ve been learning somethings that I think are important that I think are important for next year. Everything is pretty positive right now.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, FINISHED 5TH: ON HIS RACE: “When the sun went down it didn’t work as well for us. We were good when it was slick and when the grip came, somehow the balance…………and this happens to us a lot and when the balance changes from the cooler track temperatures it seems to shift us into an area that we have a hard time adjusting. But it was a great day, a top-five, great year. We had three wins, got number 85, and came up short in the Chase but we look forward to next year and battling it out for the Sprint Cup.”
THE WAY THE CHAMPIONSHIP ENDED WITH TONY AND CARL ITS JUST GOOD FOR OUR SPORT ISN’T IT? “It’s great for the sport and I think Tony is just one of the all-time greats and he proved that over these last ten races and especially tonight. And it showed Carl what he is made of as well. I think that is awesome.
Look at the people standing up………..they stuck around to see how this one was going to unfold. You thought he was down and out and then he came back and you really thought he wasn’t sitting in the best position and he had to stretch the fuel and everything. And gosh if he didn’t do that too. That is amazing.”
WAS IT AS FUN OUT THERE FOR YOU AS IT WAS FOR US WATCHING? “This is a great racetrack. It offers so many different grooves, and you are slipping and sliding around, which is our kind of race track. It changed for us a little bit when the sun went down. We were not quite as good as we were when the sun was out. We had to make some adjustments, but just a great effort by this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet team. In the pits they were awesome, and we adjusted, we got it better there at the end and started working our way back to the front. Great top-five finish to end the season. I just have to thank Drive to End Hunger, DuPont, Pepsi Max, Quaker State, and Chevrolet, everybody that makes this a great team. Thank Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys. They just worked so hard this year, they are a great team; I can’t wait for next year. Congratulations to Tony Stewart, my gosh, what an amazing run he had in these final ten races. He has done some incredible things in his career, but I am guessing that this one is going to top them all. He did it in a fashion that everybody dreams of doing.”
CERTAINLY YOU WANTED TO WIN THE RACE, BUT A TOP-FIVE FINISH IN THE LAST RACE OF THE SEASON HAS TO FEEL GOOD GOING TO THE OFF SEASON LOOKING FORWARD TO 2012: “Well, we have never won here. We have a lot of top-five’s so we added to that. At times I thought we had something for Carl ( Edwards) when Tony ( Stewart) got up there, I said “ Uh-oh” he had a little bit extra that me and Carl did not have and he took that and went on to win the race.”
Team Chevy rain delay quotes:
TONY STEWART, NO.14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET DURING THE RAIN DELAY:
“I’d rather be up there where I am at. We are getting up there we are fixin to wear him out so, we get up there and get some more track position and we got a pretty good Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy. We have been able to match his lap times we just have to hang in there with him. We are going to make this interesting before it is over if we have not already.”
HOW IS THE CAR HANDLING AFTER THE REPAIRS? “It is actually pretty good so far, I did not realize we had such a big hole in the front but, that is what made it really tight at the beginning there, our guys they don’t panic, they don’t freak out and they don’t give up and we are fixin to keep delivering this whoopin, we got more in mind for him the rest of the day.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO.48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET ON HIS CAR PROBLEMS: “Yea, we are trying everything we can here. When the race returns to yellow, we are going to change the plugs, change the carburetor, and then see from there. I think I started getting some warning signs on the way into the pits that it was an internal situation and those internal parts were trying to find a way out, so we are out of the points trying to finish in the top-five it looks like but if we can get on the track and get going, other guys have some trouble maybe we can get something going there. Just disappointed, we had a fast car.
WAS IT GOOD AT FULL SONG? “Yea, it was running great. It was really tough to pass and guys who just block the top and protect the top and you could not get by, I worked my way up there pretty good and was having some fun, sad way to end the season but it is racing, we will come back next year.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR, NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/ AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET: YOU HAD A VIBRATION, HAS THAT GONE AWAY? “I don’t know if it has gone away completely but, it has not gotten worse. It has not been getting worse, sometimes you put on a set of tires and you throw a weight or something. I don’t know, the car is running pretty good, this run here was not our best but we are still competitive. I really liked the car at the beginning of the race, and we are going to free it up and see if we can gain and get a little faster.”
YOU WERE PLOWING IN THE MIDDLE AND WRECKING ON EXIT, HOW DO YOU FIX THAT? “Well I think the loose off is just air pressure in the tires and tight in the middle is a little bit too much wedge in the car. We will just work on the car a little bit at a time. We are half way through this race and we have a few more opportunities to improve the car. I am just real happy because I have not run well here in a long time and was excited to come here for the first time with Steve ( Letarte, crew chief), he has a good race car and it has been driving pretty good. I want to say hey to everybody back home, and Happy Thanksgiving to everybody, we will not be here next weekend on television, so wish everybody a good Thanksgiving on Thursday.”
STEVE JUST TOLD ME THIS CAR CAN WIN DO YOU AGREE? “Yea, sure, hopefully I can drive it up there and make it happen. He builds good race cars and that team put together great cars, these are great engines by Hendrick and everybody at that shop they work their guts out, they have all year long, and I feel real fortunate and luck to be able to drive the car because they are really nice.I want to thank all those guys that are watching, for all their work all year long. It has been an up and down season, but we hope that we can really improve and have more success going forward, hopefully those guys are enjoying what they are seeing today.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET: HOW ABOUT THIS RAIN, DOES THIS BREAK THE MOMENTUM OR DOES IT HELP ONCE WE GO GREEN? “Well, I was really liking the car right there. Alan ( Gustafson, Crew Chief) made some adjustments, it did not take off as good on the re-start, but it seemed like it was going to hang in there longer, so I was looking forward to working on Carl ( Edwards) there a little bit, at least make him earn this thing ya know, but he is tough, he is fast. Got a couple of guys coming, I am impressed with Tony (Stewart), it is a great championship battle this year. Impressed seeing those guys and team working, coming up through there the way he has. I don’t know what it is going to take, the sun is going down, I was having a hard time seeing, so I am kind of glad we had a break. My windshield was pretty dirty, when that rain came I could not see anything going into turn one. I just want to take this moment to thank Drive to End Hunger for being on board this year. All the fans and all the different corporations that supported this great program, one in 9 million old Americans going hungry everyday in this country, but we are making a big impact, over 4 million meals served this year and don’t forget to text hunger to 5055, and hopefully we can get this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet in victory lane, if we can keep this thing going the way it is going.”
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER CHEVROLET: HOW IS THE LAST RACE GOING WITH THIS TEAM? “Well, it started good, it got a little rough, it got worse and now we are on our way back to good. It was actually a good thing it rained right there it gave us time to re-group, think about it, look at some notes, look at what the teammates are running. (Kevin) Harvick was really good, his take-off was good. That is what we have been fighting. We are looking at some air pressure stuff and making some changes and we will get back after it. I really want to get a good run. It is a good group of guys, they deserve another win before the end, but the end is near and we better get to going.”
KEVIN HARICK NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET
ON HIS RACE: “The car was loose, then tight, then loose again. The guys on the Budweiser Chevrolet have done a good job getting the car adjusted there on that last pit stop and hopefully the race track is coming to us and we can keep doing what we are doing. It has been a good start to the race so far.”
DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TODAY THAT COULD SPOIL THE PARTY FOR THE TWO CHAMPIONSHIP GUYS AND AT LEAST WIN THE RACE? “Well, I feel like we were coming off on strong there at the end of that long run there right before the rain came, so hopefully we can get our car a little bit better as the night comes in and keep up with the race track and we still want to finish third in the points and we need to keep doing what we are doing to accomplish that. Go out and see what happens the last part of this race.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 US ARMY CHEVROLET:
YOU HAVE A TEAMMATE RUNNING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, WHAT’S YOUR THOUGHTS? “They are running for a championship, we are running for a win, they can finish wherever they want.”
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR RACE CAR? “We have a decent car, I feel like we fire off pretty good on the start of the run and then get a little loose and then we can hold our own. Track position is really important like it always is, but we have been in that fifth to eighth group all day long and hopefully we can get into that first to third group at some point.”
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF OF THE NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET:
WHAT IS THE PLAN AND WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU KNOW SO FAR ABOUT YOUR ENGINE WOES? “Well, we obviously have some type of engine problem; we don’t know exactly what it is just yet. We took some spark plugs out, we think we found a little bit of debris on one of the plugs. Obviously that is a sign that maybe something internal is going wrong, it is unfortunate that our season is ending like this but it is part of it. The guys at Hendrick engines do a fantastic job, of building us great horsepower, reliable horsepower every single season. It is unfortunate but it happens from time to time, we understand that.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE 2011 SEASON? “Obviously it is disappointing, we really thought that coming into this season we were going to be in title contention again, and we honestly should have been. Our cars are running really fast, even today our car was plenty fast and in the top-five, but we just had some unfortunate racing situations happen and it took us out of it. That is part of racing and we understand that. We have had a fantastic run, to be able to win five championships back to back, with this Lowe’s team with Jimmie (Johnson) and Hendrick motorsports and it has been an honor. I have to thank everybody that has been a part of the No. 48 team past, present and future ones as well. We have had a really good run, a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work from everybody at Hendrick Motorsports to do what we did. It is sad that the season is over with but in just a few more weeks we will be at it again.”