Tag:Tony Stewart
Posted on: November 23, 2011 2:05 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 4:55 pm

NASCAR 2011 season best in sport's history

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Stewart's amazing run to win the championship capped off NASCAR's greatest season in history)

When the 2011 NASCAR season began I had my doubts about what was ahead.

An off season of transition that led the sanctioning body to make more tweaks to the Chase format and overhaul the entire points distribution system that had been in place for decades had me skeptical at best that NASCAR was in for a steller season.

The change to a more simplified scoring system and format that distributed points on a 43-1 basis per position struck me as gimmicky rather than a move to benefit competition.

Adding in two wild cards to the Chase field based on the number of victories compiled in the regular season seemed more like a gimmick to try and breath life yet again into the controversial championship format than a bona fide idea to generate more interest.

Boy did I turn out to be wrong.

From the minute Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in historic fashion, NASCAR charted a course for a year that would include more drama, excitement and competition than any before.

The 2011 campaign wasn't just one of NASCAR's finest - it was the best of all time.

In terms of story lines there was no shortage of amazing tales to come out of the just completed season, starting rich tout of the gate with Bayne's stirring triumph in the biggest race of the year. Not only did the unheralded driver become the youngest in history to take the checkered flag in "The Great American Race," he did so with a team in the Wood Brothers that has been a part of the sport's literally since its beginning. The perfect melding of old school NASCAR with today kicked off a year that only went into overdrive from there.

Bayne led off a string of first time winners that before was all said and done grew to five - the most since 2002 - and included Regan Smith in the Southern 500 at Darlington, David Ragan taking the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Paul Menard's Brickyard 400 triumph at Indianapolis and Marcos Ambrose prevailing at Watkins Glen.

That was just a tip of the iceberg.

The overall Sprint Cup Series competition level was off the charts with 18 different drivers rolling into victory lane, also the most since 2002 and only one short of an all-time record.

Organizations across the garage area celebrated wins in 2011 including Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Team Red Bull and Richard Childress Racing.

The spread of success impressed many long-time participants and owners in the sport who marveled at how intense the competition had become.

"We're working on such a razor's edge today," said Richard Childress, who saw one of his drivers in Kevin Harvick finish third in the final championship race. "I've never seen things as close today as it is with really something like twenty to twenty drivers capable of winning on any given week. There are so many strong teams and organizations out there that when you do beat them and succeed, you know you've really accomplished something."

More numbers back up the Childress assessment. There was a series record average of 27.1 lead changes per race in 2011 and an average of 12.8 leaders per race also the most in NASCAR history.

But it wasn't until NASCAR's edition of the playoffs rolled around, when the Chase for the Sprint Cup began in September, that the real specialness of the season become apparent.

The ten race Chase created drama that was at times off the charts and a compelling on track product from start to finish.

The motorized heavyweight title fight between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards that was finally decided in the electric season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was what all premier sports events should be like.

Some doubted whether the build-up and at times over the top hype leading up to the finale would live up to the lofty expectations, but in fact the race in many ways exceeded all of it.

Stewart and Edwards tying for the points lead at the checkered flag only to have the championship decided by the number of wins in a tiebreaker is a script that could not have been written any better.

Which is why the 2011 Sprint Cup season will go down as the best in NASCAR history.

One of the beauties of sports is comparing history and events to one another and NASCAR is no different. So where does the 2011 pinnacle season stack up against others over NASCAR's sixty-plus year history? 

Here's my view of the Top 10 years in NASCAR racing including competition, championship implications and historic significance since the first green flag was thrown in 1949:

No. 10

1949 - The year it all started and Red Byron won the very first championship. Byron won two of the season's eight races and beat Lee Petty for the title to send NASCAR hurdling forward on its path toward becoming stock car racing's premiere series.

No. 9 

2001 - A season that was marred by the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500 was ironically also a watershed year for the sport and one many believe was the launching pad for NASCAR to join the level of other major league sports. The landmark network television deal with FOX and NBC brought NASCAR to millions of new fans with Jeff Gordon winning his fourth Sprint Cup Series championship.

No. 8 

1967 - Richard Petty won a remarkable 27 races including ten straight to dominate the year and establish his place among the sport's world elite. "The King" and his amazing performance brought attention to NASCAR from outside its somewhat insulated fan base and helped cement the Petty legend.

No. 7 

1972 - The start of the "Modern Era" also welcomed in R.J. Reynolds as series sponsor and the birth of the WInston Cup put NASCAR squarely on the map of big time sports. Suddenly NASCAR was known beyond its Southeastern roots and Bobby Allison won the championship on the strength of his ten victories, beating Petty in the championship race by 123 points.

No. 6 

1981 - Darrell Waltrip burst onto the NASCAR scene in a flash of controversy and brilliance behind the wheel. Waltrip was the first of the new breed of driver to come into the NASCAR world, a combination of talent behind the wheel and personality in front of a camera or microphone. Waltrip edged Allison bu 72 points to take the title.

No. 5 

1998 - Jeff Gordon rewrote the record books in an astonishing season that saw the "Golden Boy" take 13 victories and simply obliterate the competition. Gordon has a four-race winning streak in the summer stretch as well as a pair of back to back victory runs that helped pave the way for what will most certainly be an induction into the Hall of Fame.

No. 4 

2009 - Jimmie Johnson won his fourth straight Sprint Cup title but it didn't come easy by any means. Johnson had to out battle his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin for the crown by 41 points. But the year was the first with double file restarts which completely changed the complexion of many races and also was the first season of NASCAR's testing ban that helped level the playing field on track.

No. 3 

2004 - The first year of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup format saw Kurt Busch win the title in dramatic fashion, hanging on to a slim lead in the season finale at Homestead and dodging a variety of challenges including losing a wheel coming to pit road for a late stop. Busch edged Johnson by a mere eight points for the championship and NASCAR's radical new playoff system got off to a thrilling start.

No. 2 

1992 - Until last week's finale at Homestead, the season ending race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992 was at the top of the list. Alan Kulwicki prevailed as the unlikeliest of NASCAR champions, somehow willing his underfunded and independent race team to the top of the heap. Kulwicki led the lost laps and finished second to Bill Elliott in the Atlanta Hooters 500 to cap the title run and prevail in the three man race that also included Davey Allison. The thrilling championship scenario was the finishing touch on a competitive campaign that saw twelve different winners.

No. 1 

2011 - It's hard to imagine how a year can be better than the one that just finished. The number of different winners, first time winners and dramatic race for the championship is for now the gold standard of NASCAR seasons.

The 2012 campaign is only a little more than two months away. It will be interesting indeed to see what NASCAR can do for an encore after this year's effort.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 11:39 am
Edited on: November 22, 2011 1:13 pm

Steve Addington leaves Penske Racing

Posted by Pete Pistone

FOX Sports reported Steve Addington made his official departure from Penske Racing on Monday ending his tenure as crew chief for Kurt Busch.

That story was confirmed when Penske issued a statement on Tuesday morning.

“Steve Addington is no longer with our organization. We appreciate the successes we experienced together and wish him the best in his future endeavors," the team said in the statement.

Speculation is that Addington will join Stewart-Haas racing to call the shots for Tony Stewart next season.

Stewart's current crew chief Darian Grubb said after Sunday's Ford 400 victory and clinching the Sprint Cup Series championship he would not be back with Stewart-Haas Racing next season.

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Posted on: November 21, 2011 1:20 am
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:28 am

Stewart: One of the greatest races of my life

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

View highlights of 2011 Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart's post-race news conference from Homestead or listen to the complete session below.

Listen to Tony Stewart's complete post-race news conference:
Part 1 featuring Stewart, Gene Haas and Darian Grubb (22 minutes, 45 seconds):

Part 2 featuring Stewart, Haas and Grubb (41 minutes, 17 seconds):

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: November 20, 2011 10:14 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 11:59 pm

Crew chief Darian Grubb leaving Stewart's team

By Pete Pistone

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Moments after guiding Tony Stewart to the 2011 Sprint Cup Series championship, crew chief Darian Grubb said he would not return to the team next year.

Grubb said he was told earlier in the Chase he was being replaced as Stewart's crew chief next season.

"I always wanted to stay with the organization," Grubb said. "That's the reason I came here – to build something special." 

Stewart wasn't clear on what Grubb's situation was for the long-term.

"I know what his status is for the rest of the night, and I'm going to get him drunk," he said.

"Tomorrow if we can just pick our heads up off the floor without throwing up, I'm going to be extremely happy, but I'll worry about that tomorrow."

Asked whether the championship run this season may change the decision to replace Grubb, Stewart said there are still decisions to be made.

"There's a lot of things in the off-season and decisions that have to be made," he said.  "Obviously we wanted to get through this championship battle first, and we'll sit down as a group, obviously, this week and figure out the direction of our program.

"But, you know, the good thing right now is that we are sitting up here right now as champions and I don't think any of us are really too concerned other than having fun tonight and enjoying the accomplishment we have had over the last ten weeks."

Speculation has Steve Addington leaving Penske Racing and Kurt Busch's team to take the reigns of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet next season.

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Posted on: November 20, 2011 9:53 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 10:15 pm

Tony Stewart: 2011 Sprint Cup champion

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

Some interesting tidbits on Tony Stewart and his 2011 title run courtesy the NASCAR media team:

  • With his victory in Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Stewart became the seventh champion to win the season finale in his championship season.
  • Stewart won his first championship in 2002 and second in 2005. The Indiana native now joins David Pearson, Lee Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough -- all NASCAR Hall of Fame members or inductees -- as three-time champions. Nine drivers in NASCAR Sprint Cup history have won three or more championships.
  • Stewart entered the season-ending race trailing Edwards by three points. It marked the second consecutive season and fourth time since the inception of the position-based points system in 1975 the champion has overcome a points deficit entering the final race.
  • Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing with Gene Haas, is the first driver-owner to claim the championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992. The 2011 season is the organization’s third under its current ownership.
  • Stewart failed to win a race during the 26-race regular season. But he quickly caught fire, winning the first two races of the Chase, at Chicagoland Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He ultimately won five times -- twice on consecutive weekends -- to break the record for most Chase wins in a single season. Stewart has won 11 times in Chase history, second only to Jimmie Johnson’s 20.
  • Entering Sunday’s season finale, Stewart had led the points just twice in 2011, ironically after Edwards’ only victory in Las Vegas and following the fall race at New Hampshire. He finished the year with 44 career victories, tied for 15th on the all-time wins list.

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Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Tony Stewart
Posted on: November 20, 2011 9:43 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 10:27 pm

Speed Read: Homestead

By Pete Pistone


HOMESTEAD, Fla. - NASCAR's been around for more than 60 years but it's never been better than Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Ford 400 season finale was exactly the elusive "Game 7" the sport had been searching for and so much more.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards waged a championship battle like never before and might never be matched again, with a tiebreaker necessary to determine the title a first for NASCAR.

And they did it in the best way possible, going head to head with one another over the course of a dramatic 400 miles around the mile-and-a-half South Florida oval.

Like two heavyweight boxers, Stewart and Edwards traded body blows with one another swapping the point lead, maneuvering their way in and around traffic and then finally racing against each other for the checkered flag and the crown.

It was exactly what the week-long hype had promised and the duo delivered.

But even the combatants couldn't believe what transpired after they had time to reflect on what they'd both been through.

"I would compete with him in just about anything else to break that tie, if we could set up something," Edwards cracked when asked how it felt to have his entire season come down to a tiebreaker.

"But yeah, that's pretty amazing. I'm telling you guys, this is not -- I'm not just saying this because I didn't win the thing.  But I think we could run this race ten times and it would -- it's a 50/50 deal.  A little different pit stop, a little different restart here; you know, ten pounds of spring somewhere on this car, the race could have been a lot different -- not a lot different but the roles could have been reversed.  I think it's just amazing."

While Stewart came out the victor ,even he had a hard time completely grasping the events of the night.

"We were confident coming in and didn't get down when we had trouble early," he said referring to damage that knocked a hole in the front end of Stewart's grille early in the race. "But you just never know what can happen out there and even though the car was fast, we had good strategy and I truly felt we could pull this deal off, until that checkered flag flew it's impossible to know how it's going to end."

After Stewart finally delivered the knockout blow, Edwards was left to ponder what might have been and how his ultimate disappointment might ultimately impact him going forward.

"It's been a battle," Edwards said as he tried to size up the experience.  "As best I can, right now, if I step back, away from this, and look at it, and I say, okay, here are two guys, one of which has a lot more experience in these situations than the other.  Won half of the races in the Chase.  And the other guy, I mean, stood his ground, did a darned good job of forcing these guys to perform their best.

"I'm proud of that.  And I think that what you just said, the fact that it was that way, that it just turned into this, you know, man-to-man battle, that was very interesting.  That's something that you don't see in this sport.  It shouldn't happen.  It only, I believe, happened because subconsciously everybody on these teams just raised their level of performance."

The NASCAR season was raised to an off the chart level on Sunday that will be hard to top any time soon.


Martin Truex Jr. - He's the anchor of the newly-retooled Michael Waltrip Racing team and ended the season with a solid outing and a third place finish. Truex Jr. will be under the spotlight next year as MWR moves to its next level of operation and goes into the off-season with much-needed confidence.

Kasey Kahne - His impressive one year stay at Team Red Bull came to a close with yet another top ten finish in the Chase. Kahne's events place finish was the final calling card for team GM Jay Frye to bring in new investors to keep the organization on track next season.

Jeff Burton - There are reportedly some big changes on the horizon at Richard Childress Racing but Burton most likely would want to keep things status quo after the way he's ended the 2011 season. The veteran driver once again showed there's more in the tank with a solid tenth place finish on Sunday.


Kurt Busch - His dismal Chase ended only two laps into the season finale when Busch slammed the wall and was out of contention before the fans got settled into their seats. Busch had a transmission failure and as expected let his team know about his displeasure on the radio. Speculation that crew chief Steve Addington won't have to listen to Busch's tirades any longer picked up steam over the weekend with a new home at Stewart-Haas Racing reportedly awaiting him for 2012.

David Ragan - In what could be his last Sprint Cup race for a while Ragan appears to have been the sacrificial lamb of Roush Fenway Racing when his R&D engine expire before the 100 lap mark. With RFR scaling back to three cars next year due to lack of sponsorship, Ragan is looking for work and may wind up in either the Nationwide Series or the Camping World Truck Series in 2012.

Jimmie Johnson - He ended his championship reign with a whimper as Johnson left Homestead with a 32nd place finish after spinning out in turn three. While it was inevitable that Johnson's amazing run would come to a close, it was still surprising how uncompetitive he was in this Chase after some early success. There are rumors of a potential shake up at Hendrick Motorsports including speculation of crew chief Chad Knaus moving into a different position within the company but it would be a major shock if Johnson and company didn't return fully intact to try and start another title streak next season.


(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

"They're going to feel like sh-- when we kick their a after this (damage)." - Tony Stewart after his initial trip to pit road for repairs

"They're REALL going to feel worse now after we win from the back twice." - Stewart after a second trip to pit road for a hung lug nut

"A little R&D and we just got the short end of this draw." - David Ragan after his fourth blown engine of the year sent him out of the race

"Motion the 22 driver to get it first gear and stop going at a grandma's pace!" - NASCAR official referring to Kurt Busch missing from grid when rain delay ended

"He's running into us, blocking us, effecting outcome of the race." - Carl Edwards on Kevin Harvick

Race Rating

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s Ford 400 a five but I'm actually lobbying the bosses for an extra piston or two. Sunday's race wasn't just the best race of the season it was in the top five of NASCAR's all-time bests, which dates back more than 60 years. The epic championship battle between Stewart and Edwards came inside a race that regularly featured four and five wide racing and enough twists and turns for a full year. Sports don't get much better than what was on display Sunday night in Homestead and NASCAR as a whole can be very proud of the way the 2011 season came to a close.

Down the Road

The longest season in professional sports finally took the last checkered flag of the season and Sprint Cup 2011 is in the books. It will be remembered for a lot of things including competitiveness, first time winners, incredible points races and yes even some controversy.  Jimmie Johnson's title reign is over and Tony Stewart is the driver to do it. Although cars won't be in competition for the next two and a half months, the off season will be anything but quiet or dull. Expect news and some surprises before Speedweeks rolls around in February to officially begin the 2012 NASCAR season.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 

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Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:52 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 1:00 pm

Race preview: Homestead

By Pete Pistone

Ford 400 Preview

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - The Chase for the Sprint Cup championship comes to a crescendo Sunday with the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the closest points race in the history of the format.

Carl Edwards leads Tony Stewart by only three points and NASCAR has the "Game 7" moment it had hoped for when the season began.

Over the course of the nine races run so far in the title season each driver has given several examples of why they'll win the championship in 2011.

Edwards has been nearly a model of consistency since the first green flag of the season while Stewart started slow and turned up the heat once the playoffs started to ride a wave of momentum toward the top of the standings.

Both drivers are comfortable with the approach they've taken to put themselves in position to take the crown.

"We haven't won one. Tony has won four of these in the Chase. There's different approaches you can take to it," explained Edwards.

"To be clear, we've not gone out and said, Hey, we're not going to try to win this race, we're going to cruise along. We've done our very best. For us, that's one of the things I've most proud of. We've performed very well even on the days when things didn't stack up in our favor. We had some pretty big hills we had to climb. I feel whatever points system you've got, over time you're going to have close battles, you're going to have some that aren't so close. I think all of us are fortunate that it's close this year, it's exciting. It's fun to be a part of something like this."

Stewart concurs with his combatant about working under the system in place and has no problem with the fact he has more victories than Edwards but yet trails in the standings.

"How can their points system be good if the guy that's won four races is behind a guy that hasn't won any races,?" Stewart asked. The points system is good. It's easy to look at that and say that it's not good because of that fact. But what you got to understand is that, unlike other sports where it's two teams against each other, it's 43 teams, it's a 10-race Chase. You accumulate points for 10 races.

"The fact we've won four races doesn't mean we should be ahead of Carl. We did not do our job in some of the other races. That got us behind. Because of the new system, having the bonus points for winning, we were able to catch up and gain those points back. I think it's proven to be a pretty good system so far. You have two guys within three points of each other going into the last race. I don't know how you can say it's bad."

All of the warm-up has set the table for what could possibly be a winner take all scenario in Sunday's race. The strategy for both drivers is pretty simple, rather than having to figure out how many positions they'll need to finish ahead of the other to take home the title.

Take the checkered flag and no matter what the other does the Sprint Cup trophy is his.

"It's an awesome position to be in," said Stewart. "Three points really isn't a deficit at this point. We go out and win the race, it doesn't matter what they do on their side, we still control our own destiny.
We have absolutely got nothing to lose and everything to gain. That makes us a dangerous combination for the weekend."

Edwards also feels very good about his chances this weekend and is doing his best to block out as much pressure as possible.

"This is what I've prepared my whole racing life to do," said Edwards. "To win a Sprint Cup championship is the ultimate goal and I'm in the best position to accomplish that. I can't wait."

Let the games begin.

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Track Size: 1.5-mile

Race Length: 267 laps/400.5 miles

Banking/Corners: 18 - 20 degrees

Banking/Straights: 4 degrees

Frontstretch: 1,760 feet

Backstretch: 1,760 feet

Qualifying/Race Data

2010 pole winner: Kasey Kahne (176.904 mph, 30.525 seconds)

2010 race winner: Carl Edwards (126.585 mph, 11-21-10)

Track qualifying record: Jamie McMurray (181.111 mph, 29.816 seconds, 11-16-03)

Track race record: Tony Stewart (140.335 mph, 11-14-99)

Race Facts

Since the inception of the position-based points system in 1975, only three drivers have made up a points deficit in the season finale: Richard Petty in 1979 (made up two points on Darrell Waltrip), Alan Kulwicki in 1992 (made up 30 points on Davey Allison) and Jimmie Johnson in 2010 (made up 15 points on Denny Hamlin).

There have been 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Homestead, one per season since 1999.

Five drivers have competed in all 12 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Elliott Sadler and Tony Stewart.

David Green won the first pole, in 1999.

Tony Stewart won the inaugural race, in 1999.

There have been nine different pole winners. Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson lead all drivers, with two.

There have been eight different race winners, led by Greg Biffle, with three.

Jack Roush has won seven races, most among owners.

The race has been won from the pole twice: Bill Elliott (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002).

The race has been won from a top-10 starting position in nine of 12 races.

Denny Hamlin won in 2009 from the 38th starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.

Three active drivers have averaged a top-10 finish: Carl Edwards (5.7), Kevin Harvick (7.9) and A.J. Allmendinger (8.7).

Who’s Hot at Homestead

Carl Edwards – Carries a three point lead in the standings into one of his best race tracks and in fact a place where the entire Roush Fenway Racing team and Ford has prospered in recent years. Edwards has won two of the last three races at Homestead and has been very strong at other mile-and-a-half tracks during the Chase providing tremendous confidence in his quest for a first career Sprint Cup championship.

Tony Stewart – He's a two-time Homestead winner but those came back on the track's old flat layout. But Stewart brings a boatload of momentum into the season finale and has carried a swagger throughout the Chase that shows no signs of slowing down in his run for a third title. Stewart's win at Texas should be beneficial to his effort on Sunday but more than anything he may have the advantage in the intangible department.

Kevin Harvick – Comes to Homestead this year not in the thick of the championship race as he was last year but in perfect position to pay the spoiler role. Harvick has performed exceptionally well at Homestead in recent outings including three straight finishes of second or third. He has compiled an average finish of 7.9 in ten career starts, third best on the active list.

Who’s Not

Juan Pablo Montoya – It's a home game for the Miami resident but Homestead hasn't been a happy home for Montoya in the NASCAR career. He has an average finish of 27.8 in five starts including a dismal 35th in last year's race.

Kyle Busch – Would like nothing better than a good finish this weekend to go into the off-season on a positive note and begin to put the tumultuous last several weeks in the rear view mirror. But will have his work cut out for him to do that at Homestead where he's struggled in the Sprint Cup Series. Busch has only top ten finish in six career starts that saw a 32nd place run end his 2010 campaign.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Homestead has vexed Earnhardt since he moved into the Sprint Cup Series. Eleven starts have generated a 24.2 average finish. Junior still has a shot at being the highest finishing Hendrick driver in the Cup Series but will have to turnaround his dismal performance record at HMS to do so.


Groundbreaking for Homestead-Miami Dade Motorsports Complex – as the track was originally named – began Aug. 24, 1993. The first race was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Nov. 5, 1995.

The original configuration was a four-turn, rectangular oval based on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's layout.

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Homestead was held on Nov. 14, 1999.

2002 was the first season of the Championship Weekend at Homestead, with all three of NASCAR’s national series holding their season finale at the same track.

There have been 167 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Florida.

165 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series have their home state recorded as Florida.

There have been 10 race winners from Florida in NASCAR’s three national series.

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Posted on: November 17, 2011 4:21 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 9:04 pm

Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart trade barbs and quips

By Pete Pistone

MIAMI -- If the Sprint Cup championship were decided by Thursday's Champion's Press Conference, Tony Stewart would have been the winner in a fourth-round knockout.

Stewart and Carl Edwards traded barbs and wisecracks during a spirited media session as a prelude to their battle for the series title in Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

While Edwards has a three-point lead over Stewart heading into the final race of the season, you'd never know it from Thursday's at time hilarious press gathering.

"We're not trying to overcome a big deficit," said a confident and laid back Stewart. "We're right there right behind him. For us, like I said, we can finish 43rd this weekend and not be any worse off than we are right now, so we don't have anything to lose. We can throw everything we got at it. If we make a mistake doing it, it doesn't cost anything. There's no penalty for us screwing up."

Not to be outdone, Edwards countered by saying he's also feeling confident about his chances Sunday and that he's doing a good job to keep the pressure at bay.

"I don't really have any nerves," he said. "We've been running well, earned our spot at the top of the standings. I'm excited to have this opportunity to go out and win this championship. We couldn't feel better about the racetrack. We feel really good about the race.

"It's pretty fun. I'm enjoying it. I'm just looking forward to going out there and racing the car."

Throughout this championship battle the two drivers have shown great restraint from getting involved in a war of words or mind games with one another. Mutual respect for one another has been the key message point delivered from both, including after their finishes of second and third last week in Phoenix to set up this week's three-point fight for the crown.

But things broke lose on Thursday much to the delight of both competitors as well as the press corps on hand to cover the event.

When Stewart was asked if "Boys Have at It" might play into deciding the outcome of Sunday's race if he and Edwards were battling for the win he didn't hesitate to answer.

“I’d wreck my mom to win a championship. I’d wreck your mom [the reporter who asked the question] to win a championship," he said. "I respect [Edwards] as a driver, but this isn’t about friendships this weekend. This is war. This is battle. This is for a national championship. It’s no-holds barred this weekend. I didn’t come this far to be one step away from it and let it slip away, so we’re going to go for it."

Edwards sat back while Stewart talked about his previous two titles and how that experience may help his cause in this year's quest for the championship. He finally paused and replied with this gem:

"That the funny thing. I’ve listened to you talk a lot today," Edwards said. "You’ve talked a lot about your past successes. That is very respectable. And truly, all joking aside, that will make it more fun if we’re able to beat you, it will make me more proud."

Undaunted, Stewart didn't hesitate to retaliate.

"It’s like Kid Rock said: 'It’s not cocky if you can back it up,'" he said. "I think we’ve been backing it up the last three weeks."

Hopefully the racing will be as entertaining as Thursday's warmup.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com