Sprint Cup Fan Awards: Driver of the Year
By: MRN Staff on December 31, 2011 | 9:10 A.M. EST
Tony Stewart won five of the 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. (Photo: Getty Images)
MotorRacingNetwork.com concludes our annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Fan Awards for 2011 with the final category: Driver of the Year.
Tony Stewart has won two previous Sprint Cup championships but his charge to number three was the stuff of how legends are made. Stewart won five of the 10 races during the Chase for the Sprint Cup schedule and by virtue of those victories edged Carl Edwards for the title in a tiebreaker.
The performance made him a near landslide choice for this season's Driver of the Year Award.
"I would have lost every bet in the world if people would have said, hey, when you got in the Chase, that we were going to win a race or we were going to win five races and win this thing; I would have bet against us," Stewart said. "And I learned a big lesson with our organization and, you know, how strong a program we have and people-wise."
The come from behind story that included even Stewart counting himself out as a championship contender made the accomplishment that much sweeter.
"I think the way this whole Chase has worked out for us, for us to battle through a number of variables to get where we are is remarkable," he said. "But it shows the strength of the people that we have and you know it definitely makes you go, 'How did we do this, how did we overcome a lot of variables to get where we are?' But at the same time, it makes it very gratifying because you are able to take a less-than-perfect scenario and have success with it."
Stewart became the first owner-driver to win the championship in NASCAR's top division since Alan Kulwicki in 1992. He thanked co-owner Gene Haas for the support and partnership that led to the 2011 title.
"Gene has been such an integral part of this who team and to celebrate this title with him is very gratifying," Stewart said.
Let us know your selection for Driver of the Year of the 2011 Sprint Cup season by writing in your vote today at MotorRacingNetwork.com's Facebook page. Votes will be tallied up on January 3, 2012 and the winners will be featured on MotorRacingNetwork.com that day.
Other Staff Selections
- Carl Edwards did everything but win the championship with an amazing run through both the regular season and the Chase only to come up short in the tiebreaker to Stewart. His average finish of 4.9 during the playoff schedule would have been good enough to win every other Chase since the format debuted in 2004.
- Brad Keselowski came out of nowhere to become a major force in the Sprint Cup Series, winning three times and making the Chase as a wild card entry. The Penske Racing driver broke his ankle in a summer testing crash at Road Atlanta but roared back in a big way the following Sunday, winning at Pocono and starting his impressive drive into the playoffs.