Championship Race Stays Hot
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on November 13, 2011 | 7:54 P.M. EST
Edwards and Stewart will face off for the championship next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart will head into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway with only three points separating the two.
Edwards, who now has had sole possession of the championship lead for the past six races, finished second, one position ahead of Stewart in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. The points margin remained unchanged after Stewart led the most laps for the third time in the last four races, with 160.
"Every point counts right now," Stewart said. "That’s why we raced Carl (Edwards) so hard and Kasey (Kahne) so hard. We led enough laps to lead the most laps today so we’re going for every single point we can get right now.”
All other drivers were eliminated from championship contention following Phoenix setting up a storied battle between Edwards and Stewart next Sunday. The three point margin between first and second going into the final race is the closest since the inception of the Chase in 2004.
"Couldn't ask for any more," said Edwards, who led 27 laps today. "It's neat to go to Homestead and race it out. I'm sure these guys are going to be good down there. They're fast on the mile and a half's. I love that place.
"Just proud of my guys today. They did a great job on pit road. Tony was really fast. We got our car tuned in, were able to go up there and race with him and compete. That was just a good, hard fought day. Just really pumped about Homestead. I think it's going to be a good time."
Edwards has no wins in the Chase, but now heads to one of his best tracks where he's the defending race winner.
"I really enjoy racing there," Edwards said about Homestead-Miami. "The cool thing about Homestead, we're going to go there, you're going to be able to move around, pass, not get hung up as badly in traffic as you can at other racetracks. For the sport in general, I don't think there's a better place to go than Homestead to fight for this championship."
Although he has yet to visit Victory Lane since March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Edwards has only finished outside the top 10 once (11th at Talladega last month) since late August. His average finish in nine races in the Chase is 5.2.
Stewart, who is shooting for his third Cup Series title, continued his tear in the Chase with his fifth consecutive top 10, which includes two of his four wins in the Chase.
“We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing," Stewart said. "We have a third and two wins in the last three races so we’re going to keep the pressure on him (Carl Edwards) and we’ll make him sweat it out."
If the championship winds up in a tie at the checkered flag in next Sunday's Ford 400, Stewart will take the championship based on wins.
Motor Racing Network will have coverage of the championship contenders press conference on Thursday afternoon from south Florida.