“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.” – Tony Stewart, 2011 Sprint Cup champion
No matter how great the old days were, and no matter how much NASCAR racing has changed over the years, there is no doubt whatsoever that the 400-mile performance Tony Stewart delivered this Sunday will go down as one of the most impressive performances ever seen in motorsports. With the championship on the line, the driver known as Smoke didn’t just win the championship; he went out and took it. Passing car after car with utter ferocity and never once losing his cool even as his pit crew struggled, his car got damaged and his crew chief took a bold gamble on fuel, Stewart’s greatest weakness…his temper…never flared. Instead, the talent that has made the man a champion in everything he’s ever driven allowed him to win his fifth Chase race, and in doing so win the whole deal despite taking a heavyweight’s best shot. Carl Edwards was on his A game with a great car…and that was no match for Tony Stewart. Decades from now, old and new school fans alike will still be viewing this race in awe. Race fans witnessed history this Sunday in South Florida.
Crew Chief Quote of the Week:
“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.” – Darian Grubb, championship crew chief
While his driver didn’t flinch under any of the pressures that came to be this Sunday, the same can be said for the leader of the No. 14 squad. Darian Grubb was hand-picked to lead Stewart’s flagship team, and all the composure and intangibles that allowed him to lead Jimmie Johnson to a Daytona 500 title in 2006 were on display this weekend and all Chase long. Grubb was instrumental in taking a team that had been berated by both driver and press for the entire summer as they limped their way into the Chase, and turning them into the team that stopped five-time, that took the No. 99 team’s haymaker challenge and kept on trucking. What’s more, even with his driver performing at another level and his car proving to be the class of the field, Grubb went ahead nonetheless with a risky fuel mileage strategy that got Stewart off sequence with Edwards…and ultimately proved to get the No. 14 track position for the final run. There was never a moment where Grubb was out of control of this race or this team…and under that control, the results speak for themselves.
Most Controversial Quote:
“It’s disappointing. I love my guys. A lot of these guys have been with me since the Truck Series and have come up with me. I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss my guys most of all. It’s certainly a lot more bitter than it is sweet this week for sure, but we’ll see what happens.” – David Reutimann, 18th
One can only wonder if the true story of David Reutimann’s unexpected and unceremonious release from Michael Waltrip Racing will come to light in the off-season…because it doesn’t sound pretty. The driver known as “the Franchise” and the only Cup winner in MWR history, closed his 2011 season with a quiet 18th-place run…and without any sort of ride in the bank for next year. It certainly wasn’t a strong year for Reutimann or the No. 00 team, which scored only three top-10 finishes and ended up 28th in the final standings. But still, for a veteran that turned Darrell Waltrip’s truck team into a winner, that won Nationwide and Cup races for the organization, and that was a vital part of getting the Cup team through a horrendous 2007 debut season, it seems like Reutimann is getting a raw deal. The fact that the normally soft-spoken driver was as blunt as he was speaking of this race’s bitterness says volumes about the tone that this release is being viewed by the driver.
Best of the Rest
“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.” – Jeff Gordon, fifth
“It could have been better, but it was a strong effort and a good way to cap off the season. We had some issues in recent races, but today we made it click when we had to in our No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet. We got behind early, but managed to battle through the field.” – Regan Smith, 13th
“I don’t think anyone really expected that out of us, but I never stopped believing that we could be, you know, be a contender and have a lot of fun and do well as a team. I think we’ve got a lot to build off of. We’ll have to work on it, build off it too. I’m real proud of the effort for the whole team.” – Brad Keselowski, 20th, on his improbable Chase run
“You could see Tony [Stewart] was really aggressive on restarts trying to make up some ground. If you can win that many races in the Chase you deserve to win the championship, so it’s a heck of a run by them.” – Denny Hamlin, ninth