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As third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr. did his post-race news conference, Edwards sat silently off to the side, his eyes fixed on a bank of televisions showing Stewart's championship celebration.
"If I could do it all over again, there's nothing I could have done differently," he whispered. "That's my maximal effort, and Tony beat us. We knew that of all the circumstances possible, this was the least probable. But I was prepared for this."
Edwards, despite being the most consistent driver this season and points leader for 21 weeks, has been on the ropes the last month as Stewart turned up his energy, effort and trash-talking. His quick wit and sharp tongue kept the entire industry entertained as he did everything possible to get inside Edwards' head.
Maybe it was really for Stewart's benefit, a driver trying to talk himself into believing he had a shot at the title after struggling all summer long. He maybe didn't rattle Edwards, but Stewart for sure talked himself into this title.
He arrived in Miami insistent he'd race with nothing to lose and did just that from the moment the race began. He was moving through the field from his 15th starting spot when caution came out 14 laps into the race. His Stewart-Haas Racing crew discovered a hole in his grill, and the repairs dropped him to 40th in the field.
Stewart then blew by car after car and was up to 23rd in a matter of minutes. Another caution sent him into the pits for more repairs, and he restarted in 32nd.
His yapping then resumed, as he scoffed on his radio how embarrassed Edwards and the No. 99 team would be when Stewart drove from the back of the field -- twice! -- to beat them.
Edwards, meanwhile, huddled with crew chief Bob Osborne atop the pit box and declined to be interviewed. His Roush Fenway Racing team had to be nervous about engine durability -- three Roush Yates engines failed over the course of the race -- and Edwards eventually retreated to his motorhome to snack on popcorn and keep his focus.
When racing resumed, Stewart continued to slice through the field and used several spectacular three- and four-wide passes to close in on Edwards. Then crew chief Grubb made an unusual call to keep Stewart out on the track until he was just about out of gas. It was a risky call but worked perfectly when the rain came moments after Stewart finally stopped for gas.
It gave Stewart breathing room as he was able to save gas under yellow. 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.
Although Edwards quickly moved into second, he couldn't catch Stewart as he sailed to his fifth Chase victory.
"They got five wins in 10 races," Osborne said. "That's pretty unbelievable. But they did it, and it got them the championship."
The championship completes a total turnaround for co-owner Gene Haas, who sold half his slumping organization to Stewart in 2008 in a hope the driver could bring a spark to a team that struggled to stay inside the top 35 in points.
"Tony Stewart's a superstar, we knew that," Haas said. "You need a wheelman. You can have all the best equipment in the world, and without a wheelman, you don't have a whole lot."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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