Stewart, Edwards Last Men Standing In Chase Showdown At Homestead
Saturday, November 19, 2011
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – As NASCAR’s “Chase for the Championship” will be decided in Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, two-time Brickyard 400 winner Tony Stewart has the swagger and confidence that he can win his third Sprint Cup title.
He is just three points behind leader Carl Edwards and is confident that by the time the checkered flag drops, he will be the champion.
“I'd wreck my mom to win a championship,” Stewart said. “I'll wreck your mom to win a championship.
“I respect him (Edwards) as a driver, but this isn't about friendships this weekend. This is a war. This is a battle. This is for a national championship. It's no holds barred this weekend. I didn't come this far to be one step away from it and let it slip away, so we're going to go for it.”
Stewart made those comments during the championship contenders’ media availability Thursday at Miami Beach while seated next to Edwards, who playfully looked over and responded, “Did you say something?”
“Yeah, you can come visit my trophy in the room at Vegas when you come out there,” Stewart said.
When it comes to momentum, Stewart may have the edge because he has scored all four of his victories this season in the first eight races of the Chase. He appeared set to win his fifth race last Sunday at Phoenix when he led a race high five times for 160 laps before an air pressure adjustment on his next-to-last pit stop dropped him to third place.
Edwards finished second, and that position may be the determining factor in the title race because past history at Homestead gives him an edge. Edwards has two victories on the 1.5-mile oval, and Roush Fenway Racing has won seven of the 12 Cup races contested on this track. Stewart is also a two-time winner, but his victories in 1999 and 2000 came before the track was reconfigured to its current layout.
If Stewart doesn’t have the advantage on past record, then he will try to get an edge by getting into Edwards’ head.
“He's got the talking part figured out,” Edwards said of Stewart. “Problem is, you haven't led the points yet this year, have you?”
“They say there's talkers and doers,” Stewart shot back. “I've done this (winning the Cup title) twice.”
Edwards quipped that he has listened to a lot of Stewart’s comments but those are in the past – he’s more interested in the future.
“That will make it more fun if we're able to beat you,” Edwards said. “It will make me more proud. But this is going to be a good competition, you guys. Don't think for a second that either one of us are going to let anything slide. We're going to go out here, we're going to race hard, and we're going for this championship.
“I don't think you could find two harder racers than us up here, and we both know that about each other.”
In many ways, Stewart is trying to annoy Edwards like a pesky fly in the room that avoids the fly swatter. The buzz of the fly may get on your nerves, but no matter how hard someone tries to get it, the fly always finds a way to escape and continue the annoyance.
“That’s a pretty good analogy right there,” Edwards said Friday. “Their performance (Stewart’s team), I think, has been amazing. Their ability, I learned a lot about Tony, and their ability to go from really being on the outside of this Chase, struggling to make it, and to turn this around and to run the way they have and to show that ability, I give them a lot of credit. Those guys have done an amazing job and, yeah, we’ve run better the last few weeks than we’ve run in a long time, and those guys are still right there knocking at the door. That’s what great battles are made of – two guys, we’ve said it over and over, I believe we’re raising each other’s level of performance, we are pushing each other and this race, I don’t think, is going to be any different. I’m going into this race to go hard, and I think he’s doing the same.
“We’ve talked about that a lot. That truly doesn’t matter to me. It’s neat. We stopped at a restaurant and got dinner last night and this kid comes up to me and says, ‘Man, I’m so excited to see you and Tony race this weekend.’ That’s pretty cool. I think that the talking he’s done has brought a lot of attention to this, and I think that’s good. It’s been fun. We had a little fun with it, and we got to spend a little more time yesterday together than we have in a long time, and it was pretty neat.”
Edwards and Stewart are the only drivers left in contention for the championship. Other former Brickyard 400 champions, including 2003 winner Kevin Harvick, offered their opinions on Sunday’s championship decider.
Harvick is third in points, 51 out of the lead.
“I think the biggest thing that Carl has going for him is this is a great racetrack for him, but coming here racing for a championship and coming here just to win a race are two different things,” Harvick said. “I think that’s the position they have been in n the past, just to come here and win a race and not have to worry about parts failures or anything like that. I think Tony’s biggest advantage is he’s just so confident. He’s relaxed, he’s confident, and his team has been rolling through racetracks they haven’t run good at the beginning of the year or whatever the case may be, they just have made it happen. I feel like they have that winning momentum, and I feel like Carl has a racetrack that they’ve had a lot of success at.
“It’s just Tony being Tony. He’s obviously been there before. He knows what he needs to do. He’s been in tight championship races before. He’s got a lot of experience, and in the end I don’t think Carl is going to crack, though.”
Three-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson is fifth in points. His historic championship streak ended last week at five straight Cup titles.
“Man, coming here I think Carl (Edwards) has a bit of the upper hand, just based on past history,” Johnson said Friday. “I think Tony’s (Stewart) chances are very strong, especially on how they have been running on the larger tracks, but I think I put a little bit of weight in past history at this racetrack. Both of them I think would be fantastic champions, but I guess I am leaning a little bit more toward Tony with the associate with Hendrick Motorsports, and I want to see a Chevy win the championship.”
Four-time Brickyard 400 winner and four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon also is pulling for Stewart. Gordon is 11th in the Chase and would like to crack the top 10 in the standings.
“I think it’s such an exciting battle here because it would be easy to say that Carl’s got the edge, this is his track, the Roush cars have been so strong at the mile-and-a-half tracks, he has a three-point advantage,” Gordon said. “To me, Tony has just taken it to them. I don’t know what happened there at the end of the race last week, but Carl kind of got the edge on him right at the end, but Tony had it for a good part of the race, led the most laps and he did everything you needed to do and he’s going to have to do that again this weekend, but why shouldn’t he? He’s been doing it the last several weeks.
"It’s really hard to say who’s got the advantage. I would lean a little bit more toward Carl, but I’m pulling for Tony. I think that he’s a two-time champion, he’s a guy that when he sets his mind on something, watch out. He can do amazing things.
“Plus I want to see a Chevy win.”
Essentially, NASCAR has a “Winner Take All” scenario for the title. If either of these drivers win the race, they will win the championship. Otherwise, Stewart has to finish ahead of Edwards because he would win the tie-breaker based on his four wins this season to just one for Edwards.
“It takes all the question of adding points, worrying about tiebreakers, this and that out of the equation when the fans can watch the guy that wins the race win the championship at the same time,” Stewart said. “This is probably the best chance of having a championship decided with a win that you've ever had.
“We're not trying to overcome a big deficit. We're right there right behind him. You have two guys within three points of each other going into the last race. I don't know how you can say it's bad. We're keeping each other honest, in my opinion. It's fun to have a championship race like that.”
That is why both drivers are focused on winning the race because the checkered flag will seal the title.
“I truly believe this could come down to who wins this race is going to win this championship,” Edwards said.
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