Tony Stewart celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race and clinching the series championship, at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (Chuck Burton/AP)

Tony Stewart stormed to victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, edging out Carl Edwards with a win at the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As Amy Shipley reported:

It’s hard to pick the most compelling element of Sunday’s race to decide the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Was it the jaw-dropping comeback? The historic duel? The down-to-the-wire finish? Even Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards couldn’t quite believe the race they’d just run, the season they had just concluded, the history they had just made.

Stewart won the rain-delayed Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the season’s championship by the narrowest of margins and maximum amount of drama. He threw out daring driving, bold decision-making and hair-raising passes to overcome early car trouble that at one point left him in 40th place.

He passed 118 cars during the 400-mile race on a 1.5-mile track, but in the end it was only Edwards — the man leading the Sprint Cup series by just three points at the race’s start — that he had to hold off for the victory.

Over the last 40 laps of the 267-lap race, the two drivers raced as if there were no other cars on the track, but Stewart refused to relinquish the lead it took him half of the day — and all season — to gain. His victory secured him his third Sprint Cup series championship even though he and Edwards, who finished second, ended up tied in points with 2,403.

Stewart won the tiebreaker since he had won more races during the series.

“If this wasn’t one of the most exciting races to watch from a fan standpoint, you’ve got to go to a doctor immediately,” said Stewart, 40. “I feel like I passed half the state of Florida. . . . This is definitely one of the greatest races of my life.” 

Stewart overcame bad road conditions and early car trouble to become the first owner/driver to win the Sprint Cup. As AP explained :

How good was Stewart, who drove from the back — twice! — and passed 118 cars during the race?

“I think Tony drove the best race of his life,” said A.J. Foyt, Stewart’s childhood idol.

The compliment nearly brought Stewart to tears.

“Not many people can hear your lifelong hero say that. Just really, really flattering,” said Stewart, who wasn’t sure it’s the best drive of his 31-year career, but knew it was pretty strong.

Stewart became the first owner/driver to win the championship since the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992, and the driver to end Jimmie Johnson’s record five-year title run. His last title was in 2005, the year before Johnson’s began his reign.

Stewart overcame the hole in his grill, a rain delay, used debatable fuel strategy and made aggressive passes that stunned racing veterans to win Sunday. He’s been driving that way for at least a month, buoyed in part by a race-winning pass of Johnson on the outside at Martinsville that gave him his third Chase victory.

Stewart avoided questions after his win about his crew chief Darian Grubb, whose future is up in the air after reports earlier in the season that he was leaving Stewart’s team. As Cindy Boren wrote:

Tony Stewart didn’t have to wreck anyone’s mom in order to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Now, though, he will have to hire a new crew chief.

Darian Grubb, whose pit call stretched the gas in Stewart’s car to the limit and put him in position to outduel Carl Edwards and win the Ford 400 and Cup on Sunday, won’t be returning.

Stewart, the first owner-driver to win the title race since Alan Kulwicki in 1992, had radioed the crew: “Darian Grubb, you are the … man. You did this, bud.” And after the race, he dodged the question about Grubb’s status. “I know what his status is for the rest of the night, and I'm going to get him drunk. There's a lot of things in the offseason and a lot of decisions that have to be made. Obviously, we wanted to get through this championship first.”

Grubb, according to ESPN, has an offer to return to Hendrick Motorsports as well as another from Michael Waltrip Racing. “It still is [baffling] to me, obviously. I'm not really sure what's going to happen now,” Grubb said. “I was told early on in the Chase, before Charlotte, that I wasn't going to be here next year.”

At that point, Stewart was seventh, with victories in the first two races in the Chase. He won three more, taking five of the 10 races in the Chase and winning the championship in an historic and exciting run — a run that’s over now.

More from Washington Post Sports

Crew chief unsure if he will back in 2012 at Stewart-Haas racing

VIDEO: Stewart wins third Sprint Cup championship