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A Chase worth the name

Now this is how every championship in every sport should be decided: With the only two guys left in contention going mano-a-mano to the very end, with no margin for error and nothing left on the table by either.

If you missed the NASCAR finale at Homestead this evening -- and I can only feel pity for you if you did -- you missed all of the above, and the very essence of what makes sports great no matter what the game. For the last 40 laps, Carl Edwards chased Tony Stewart, both of them tied for the points lead and the outcome riding on whether or not Stewart would make the one bobble that would open the door and allow Edwards to walk through.

No such luck. Stewart, at the very top of his considerable game, held on to win -- his fifth Chase victory in 10 races, which enabled him to win the title via the tiebreaker. Edwards finished second, a second and change behind him. From the time Stewart charged to the front off the last restart to the end, no more than a second-and-a-half separated the two, as neither made a mistake in those last 40 laps despite a virtually unprecedented level of pressure.

That, boys and girls, is the best piece of racing you'll ever see. I've certainly never seen better, and I've been covering motorsports for 34 years.

And it's a great story for Stewart, who became the first driver-owner to win a Cup title since the late Alan Kulwicki almost 20 years ago. His team didn't win a race during the regular season -- Stewart even joked at the beginning of the Chase that they didn't belong there -- but they won this thing the way it ought to be won, by winning races and throwing caution to the wind. That was especially true tonight, when early damage to the front of Stewart's car dropped him to 40th, and he drove his way to the front not once but twice with some of the most astounding racing of his career.

It was, quite simply, a tour-de-force by maybe the best wheel man in the sport. Rising to the occasion simply can't be done any better.

Ben Smith's blog.

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