Here's the difference between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards.
Stewart, the newly crowned 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, is a racer. Edwards, who finished Sunday's Ford 400 tied with Stewart with 2,403 points but lost the title five Chase wins to zero, is a driver.
He's a great driver, mind you, but when the chips were down and the only way to win the championship was to win the race, he came out second best to a guy who understands winning.
Stewart has won in Indy cars, stock cars, World of Outlaws sprint cars and USAC Silver Crown dirt cars. He's won in midgets. This is his third Sprint Cup championship.
Yes, Edwards has won races but his rides have never been as diverse as Stewart's and, in the end, he's not been as successful as Stewart because he's never been able to win when it counts.
Owner-driver Stewart won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship Sunday night when he finished the stock car series playoffs in a tie with Edwards but was declared the winner by virtue of winning more races than Edwards in the Chase for the Championship.
Stewart won the Ford 400, the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which had been interrupted by rain and finished after dark and under the lights, with Edwards coming home second.
They both scored 2,402 points but Stewart won five of the 10 Chase races while Edwards didn't win any. It was Stewart's third championship. Edwards has yet to win one.
It was not easy for the new champion. Early in the race, he ran over debris from Kurt Busch's motor which punched a hole in his radiator. His crew was able to make repairs, but he wound up running 40th in the 43-car field.
After moving up to 23rd place, he pitted for additional repairs - a move that dropped him back to 38th place.
That he was able to claw his way back to the front and then go on and win the race was nothing short of miraculous. In total, he passed 76 cars during the contest.
"You guys are awesome," he told his crew. Somebody should have told Stewart that he drove a pretty awesome race himself.
On the last restart, with 37 laps to go following a 17-lap caution for rain, Stewart started third and Edwards was right behind him in fifth. Stewart passed Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski on the first lap under green and was never headed the rest of the way.
Edwards moved into second several laps later but was never able to get closer to Stewart than one second.
Moments after the checkers flew, the rains returned and poured down on the racers and the sellout crowd. In Victory Lane, Stewart thanked a Higher Power for holding off the precipitation.
"We can thank the Lord for this one," he said. "The Man Upstairs held the rain off long enough for us to get this done."
Then, talking about his battle for the championship with runner-up Edwards, Stewart added: "He's a great competitor and a great guy. He was the first one to congratulate us. If this doesn't go down as one of the greatest championship battles in history, I don't know what would."
It marked the first time since 1992, when the late Alan Kulwicki did it, that a driver who also owns his team won the title. He was presented with a cheque for more than $5.6 million.
Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Hass Racing, called Stewart, "the greatest driver in the world today."
Edwards was gracious in defeat: “This night is about Tony Stewart,” he said after the race. “They beat us fair and square. That's all I had at the end. My guys did a really good job. We led the most laps and Tony still managed . . .
“So I told my wife, if I can't win this thing I'll be the best loser NASCAR has ever had. I'm going to try very hard to keep my head up and know that we'll go next year and be just as hard to beat next year and just as hard the year after that but I just hope everybody is proud of the way we performed and our effort.
"I appreciate everyone's support. All the folks that helped me get to this position and I wish so bad we had that trophy but it just wasn't meant to be tonight.”
After Stewart and Edwards in the race came Martin Truex Jr. in third place, Matt Kenseth in fourth and Jeff Gordon in fifth. In the Chase standings, Kevin Harvick finished third, Matt Kenseth was fourth and Brad Keselowski was fifth.
When NASCAR chairman Brian France invented the Chase for the Championship format in 2004, he envisioned a scenario like Sunday night's in which the championship would come down to the last race, or races, and be between two or three drivers.
It didn't often work out. In fact, the first Chase winner, Kurt Busch, was the closest to Stewart so far as squeezing in is concerned. He won his title by a mere eight points. The rest of the time, the champion - usually Jimmie Johnson - had a pretty comfortable cushion.
So Sunday night's head-to-head matchup lived up to expectations - in spades. Edwards. Mr. Consistency, started from the pole and was always (or usually) in the top five all race. It was his pattern all season; although he only won one race, he was at or near the top just about the whole time.
Stewart made it into the Chase - barely (he was seeded ninth among the 12 drivers) - but didn't win a race during the regular season. But he got the bit in his teeth early (he won the first two races in the Chase at Chicago and New Hampshire) and wound up winning fully half of all the playoff races, an amazing accomplishment.
Stewart's exclamation mark on the season Sunday officially broke the string of five consecutive championships recorded by Jimmie Johnson. In fact, Johnson could do no better than 32nd at Homestead, which pretty much summed up his season, which was so-so.
At the conclusion, he was sixth in the Chase standings, his worst result in the 10 years he's been a Cup regular.
He only recorded two wins (including one in the Chase) and the question now will be whether his employer, Rick Hendrick, leaves him with long-time crew chief Chad Knaus or whether somebody new will be calling the pit box shots for him next season.
Now, I'll examine this in great detail later this week, but although the season ended on a high note with high drama and a new champion, all is not well with NASCAR
A number of teams don't have sponorships for next season, drivers Brian Vickers and David Reutimann are without competitive rides and the entire Red Bull racing team will be disbanded unless a buyer emerges from the woodwork in the very near future.