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Mon, 21 Nov 2011 10:03 PM EST

It will go down in the books as a most memorable championship race, a grueling 400-mile rainy-day season finale between two of NASCARs most enduring drivers. Football scores

And while Tony Stewart insists he wasn’t a cup contender when the championship race began, once it became clear he was a real threat he demonstrated an unrelenting drive in the season finale to capture his third NASCAR championship. He held nothing back while overcoming a hole in the grill of his Chevrolet, a 75-minute rain delay, used debatable fuel strategy and made 118 passes on the track to beat out Karl Edwards and win the Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Edwards, who had a three-point lead going into the race, did all that he could to keep that lead from the first minute he arrived in Florida. His racing team put his Ford on the pole, he led for 119 of the 267 laps and was still powerless to finish better than second.

Edwards and Stewart were actually tied in the final standings, but Stewart won based on his five victories, all in the 10-race Chase, to Edwards’ one. Baseball scores

Stewart’s win is the bookend of Jimmie Johnson’s five-year championship title run. Stewart’s last title was in 2005, the year before Johnson began his reign.

And although Edwards has been a steady driver and points leader for 21 weeks, he has been on the ropes during the last month as Stewart turned up the heat. Stewart’s quick wit kept everyone entertained as he did what he could to get inside Edwards’ head.

It certainly appears as though Stewart talked himself into believing he had a shot at the title after a summer of struggling. Who knows if he really got inside Edwards’ head or not, but for sure he talked himself into this title.

Stewart arrived in Miami insisting he’d race with nothing to lose, and that is how he drove. Starting 15th, he was moving through the field when caution came out on lap14. His crew found a hole in his grill, and the repairs put him back to 40th in the field.

Once he was back on the track, Stewart blew by the other cars and was up to 23rd in a matter of minutes. Another caution sent him into the pits for more repairs, and he restarted again, this time 32nd.

At one point, rain stopped the race for 75 minutes.

When racing resumed, Stewart continued his aggressive tack, slicing through the field and using several spectacular three- and four-wide passes to close in on Edwards. Then crew chief Darian Grubb took a chance and decided to keep Stewart out on the track until he was just about out of gas. It was timed perfectly, as the rain came moments after Stewart finally stopped to refuel.

He was fourth on the final restart, Edwards was sixth, and Stewart used a three-wide pass over Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger to reclaim the lead.

And although Edwards quickly moved into second, he just couldn’t catch Stewart.

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