Title Fight Moves to Phoenix

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards leads Tony Stewart by three points with two races remaining. (Photo: Getty Images)

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart bring their Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship battle to Phoenix International Raceway and Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500.

Edwards continues to hold a three-point advantage over Stewart with two races left in the season. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has maintained his position on top of the Chase despite being winless by recording a strong of consistent finishers.

He’s had to overcome his share of challenges during the first eight races of the playoffs and understand how good fortune has also played a part in his pacing the championship race and staying ahead of Stewart.

“I think we're very fortunate to have led the points for as long as we have this season,” Edwards said. “I think the guys, I know myself, have a certain comfort level with it. We've watched the guys make runs at us and then fall away.

“At the end of the day it truly doesn't matter what the 14 team does or what Tony does or what anyone else does. All we can do is just go do the best we can do. It might feel comfortable to them to be the position they're in, to be gaining points. But truly the past is history. We've got to go out and run these next two races. Yeah, I don't underestimate them for a second. I know how good they are. But we're going to be good, as well.”

Stewart doesn’t underestimate his opponent either but is also confident about his ability and the Stewart-Haas Racing team’s talents that have added up to four wins in the last eight races.

After his latest triumph last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, Stewart sounded as confident as he’s been in recent memory.

“It's theirs to lose now,” said Stewart after his Texas triumph. “But I don't know that they have a choice now. I mean, we did what we said we were going to do. We're going to take it if we want it. Today is a perfect example. We took five points off that deficit today. We have that ability to do that the next two weeks.”

Stewart’s surge has come at the exact right time of the season and has put the two-time champion squarely on target to try and become the first owner-driver to win a Sprint Cup title since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.

Stewart is enjoying the success and the opportunity even to the point of admitting he’s having fun doing it.

“The good thing is we've been in this position a lot of times and this isn't the first time we've been in this deal,” he said. “We have that ability. Like I said, I didn't think we belonged in the Chase to start with, I didn't think we were a factor. What do we have to lose? We don't have anything to lose. I don't care about second or third in the points. After you won it, second doesn't really matter.

“To me it's about going out, getting that championship, doing everything you can to accomplish that goal. We're not a group that's going to sit here obviously and say, 'We'll take the easy road and settle for second.' I'd rather finish sixth or seventh in points knowing that we did everything we can to win. That's what we're going to do the next 14 days.”

The next challenge for both drivers comes Sunday at the newly reconfigured and repaved PIR. Although teams had a chance to test at the new layout more than a month ago, there remains many questions about just what to expect in Sunday’s penultimate race.

Edwards is the defending race winner but knows how much of a variable the basically brand new track will play in determining the championship.

“I think that Phoenix is still a huge unknown,” Edwards said after his second-place Texas finish. “Tony was out there at that tire test with us. I got to see how good those guys were.

“We really think next week at Phoenix has a larger opportunity by a landslide to change the outcome of this Chase. That one will be a very important race. You know what I'm saying? If Tony and I run 1-2 at Homestead, there's not going to be much points change if we run like we did tonight, but Phoenix has the potential to be huge.”

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