Dallas Motorsports: Carl Edwards

Drivers to watch: NRA 500 at TMS

April, 12, 2013

With ESPN Stats & Information riding shotgun, here's who you should keep a close eye on during Saturday night's NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:

Jimmie Johnson: "Five-Time" has outdone the entire field in some aspects over the past 10 Sprint Cup events. In that time, he has four of the 10 wins and has won three times from the pole, something no other driver has done even once. He also has three starts where he's earned maximum points, which is more than the rest of the field combined. Johnson led more laps at TMS (324) in 2012 -- more than 3.5 times any other driver. After last week's win at Martinsville, Johnson now has 12 multi-win seasons during his career, which ranks behind only Richard Petty (18), Jeff Gordon (14) and Cale Yarborough (13).

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage joins Galloway & Company to discuss the NRA sponsorship and who he's picking to win Saturday's Sprint Cup race.

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And don't look for that dominance to end on the 1.5-mile track at TMS. Johnson loves the distance, earning more career wins on 1.5-mile tracks (17 in 113 starts) than any other driver in NASCAR history. Jeff Gordon (16/161) and Tony Stewart (15/133) are on his heels, however.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Since the start of the 2012 season, Dale Jr. has really stepped it up. His average finish over his last 40 races has been 10.4 -- more than eight spots better than the 2009-11 seasons (18.8 average finish). And he's very comfortable at TMS, where he earned his first career victory. Earnhardt has four straight top-10 finishes at TMS and five overall since the start of the 2010 Sprint Cup season. For his career, he's got 12 top-10 finishes in 21 races. Not too shabby.

Roush Fenway Racing (Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards): RFR is no stranger when it comes to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway. The team has nine Cup wins at TMS, more than double the next-best effort (4, by Hendrick Motorsports drivers). Greg Biffle, who won the spring race in 2012, and Carl Edwards will again be behind the wheel in Jack Roush cars on Saturday night, so keep an eye on them. In the last five races here (spanning 18 starts), RFR drivers have two wins, 11 top-5 finishes and 15 top 10s. They've also led 38.7 percent of laps run at TMS.

Edwards is the winningest Cup driver at TMS, having fired the pistols three times in Victory Lane. He also has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts here, with an average finish of 7.3. Biffle, meanwhile, has one win and hasn't finished outside the top 10 in his last nine races at TMS -- an average finish of 5.7. That includes six top-5s.

Danica Patrick: You have to keep on eye on Danica, whose eighth-place finish during the 2012 Nationwide Series race at TMS is the second-best result of her NASCAR career. And don't forget she's coming off an impressive 12th in the Cup race at Martinsville last week. Patrick seems very comfortable running under the green at TMS, where she passed a personal-best 107 cars en route to a 24th place finish last November.

Brad Keselowski: You have to think a visit to Victory Lane is just around the corner for the reigning Cup champion. Keselowski has yet to win this season, but has an average finish of 7.2 thus far this season. That's ahead of the personal-best pace he set last season, as he had an average finish of 10.1 -- with five wins -- en route to the Sprint Cup championship.

Kyle Busch: After the worst season of his career, Busch still is a threat to win behind the wheel of any car, as his success across all three of NASCAR's series proves. After taking the checkered flag just once last season, Busch has gotten back to his winning ways in 2013 -- getting four wins in just 12 races. Over the last six seasons, Busch has 88 victories in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series.

Matt Kenseth: Kenseth is always a threat at TMS, having won twice on the 1.5-mile track. But it's not the checkered flags that impresses most. It's the career average finish here (8.3) that boggles the mind. He's got 12 top 5s, 15 top 10s and has led 772 laps at TMS.

Jeff Gordon: Saturday's start will the 696th in a row for Gordon, who will move within one of Rusty Wallace for second on the all-time NASCAR Iron Man list. Ricky Rudd holds the record at 788.

Tony Stewart: "Smoke" has always been a TMS favorite, but he's run into tough times so far this season with an average finish of 21.2 and only 154 quality passes, which ranks 22nd among Cup drivers. That being said, you can't count Stewart out as he's visited Victory Lane in each of the last 14 seasons, which is tied for seventh all-time behind Richard Petty's 18 seasons with a win. With a checkered flag in 2013, he'll join Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt on that list, and he'd also tie Herb Thomas for 13th all-time with 48 career victories.

TMS trivia: Amaze your friends!

April, 11, 2013

Want to impress your friends while hanging out at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday and Saturday? Here's a little bit of TMS trivia, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

FRONT RUNNERS: If you qualify in the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway, you have a very good chance of winning. In 24 races since the track’s inaugural race in 1997, 18 winners have rolled off pit row from a top-10 starting spot, the highest win percentage of any track along with Sonoma. Richmond and Dover are next at 71.9 percent.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: So who has the best chance of starting in the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway? None other than Jimmie Johnson, who has started from inside the top 10 on 12 occasions in 19 races (63.2 percent), including both of his Texas wins. Greg Biffle (61.1), Kasey Kahne (58.8) and Mark Martin (54.2) are next.

CLIMBING THE LADDER: Enough about those at the front. That's easy, right? Now ... coming up through the field to win? That's an achievement. Matt Kenseth currently holds that honor, winning in 2002 after starting 31st. Denny Hamlin, however, proved he was no fluke, having swept both 2010 races from the 30th and 29th starting spots in the field. Carl Edwards (2005) also won from the 30th spot.

PHOTO FINISHES: Nothing beats the drama of a last-lap sprint to the checkered flag. Just ask Elliott Sadler, who edged Kasey Kahne by .028 seconds in 2004 for the closest Cup finish in TMS history. And if you want the opposing viewpoint, you can try to ask Jimmie Johnson, who was the runner-up in close finishes to Denny Hamlin (.152 seconds in 2010), Tony Stewart (.272 seconds in 2006), Jeff Gordon (.378 seconds in 2009) and Carl Edwards (.399 seconds in 2008). Venturing a guess, however: You need not feel overly sorry for "Five-Time."

WHICH WAY IS VICTORY LANE: Will there be a first-time Cup winner in Texas? It's happened twice before. Jeff Burton earned his first Cup victory at TMS in 1997. Burton, who started fifth, beat Dale Jarrett by 4.1 seconds to win in his 96th career race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. reached Victory Lane much quicker, winning at TMS in 2000 in just his 12th career race. Who'd Dale Jr. beat to the finish line? Why Jeff Burton, of course.

Stats & Info: NRA 500 at TMS

April, 10, 2013

Playing the numbers game for the NRA 500, to be held at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night:

  • Jimmie Johnson is back in the points lead after a dominant Martinsville victory. It’s his 12th straight multi-win season -- the fourth-longest streak in Sprint Cup Series history. It’s also the fourth time he’s won at least twice in the first six races of the season. The other three times he did it, he went on to win the title. Johnson could add a third win at Texas, a track at which he led 324 laps last season -- nearly half the laps of the two races held there (669).

  • Johnson took the points lead away from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished outside the top 10 for the first time this season. Earnhardt will look to bounce back at Texas, site of his first career win in 2000 and a track where he’s had five top 10s in the last six races, coming back from a slump.

    From 2000-06, Dale Jr. had top 10s in seven of his nine races for an average finish of 10.2. Over the next three seasons, through 2009, he failed to crack the top 10 in six races for an average finish of 21.2. Since then, however, he's averaged an 11th place finish in his last six races.

  • No team has a better record at TMS than Roush Fenway Racing, which has won nine of the 24 races -- more than twice as many as any other team. In the last five races at TMS, Roush Fenway drivers have led 646 laps (38.7 percnet) and have gone on to 11 top 5s and 15 top 10s in 18 starts, and they've won the last two spring races with Matt Kenseth (no longer with the team) and Greg Biffle.

  • Kenseth is no longer with Roush Fenway Racing, but he’ll look to bring his Texas expertise to Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth is the all-time TMS leader in top 5s (12), top 10s (15), laps led (772) and average finish (8.3). He’s just one win behind former teammate Carl Edwards, who has three.

  • Danica Patrick was a pleasant surprise at Martinsville, finishing 12th in her first visit there. She’s struggled this season on larger tracks, but TMS could be a place where she maintains momentum. Last year in the spring Nationwide Series race, she finished a NNS season-best eighth. And in her only Sprint Cup start at the track, she passed a career-high 107 cars under the green flag.

    Who stars in the Lone Star State?

  • Greg Biffle: Nine straight top-10 finishes at Texas; longest streak in track history (defending spring race winner).
  • Jimmie Johnson: Finished second and first at Texas last season (five top 10s in last six races).
  • Matt Kenseth: Five straight top-5 finishes at Texas (won spring 2011 race).
  • Carl Edwards: Three Sprint Cup Series wins at Texas (leads all drivers).
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Four straight top 10s at Texas (1st career NSCS win came at Texas in 2000).

    Who's just feeling alone?

  • Brad Keselowski: Has finished 14th or worse in eight of nine career Texas races (2nd last fall; 36th last spring).
  • Mark Martin: Has wrecked out of two of last four TMS races.
  • Ryan Newman: Has finished outside top 10 in last nine TMS races.
  • Brian Vickers: Has never finished better than 12th at Texas (14 starts).
  • Kyle Busch: Has finished outside top 10 in three of last four races at TMS.
  • Rapid Reaction: Greg Biffle wins at TMS

    April, 14, 2012
    PM CT

    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Greg Biffle said a few days ago that his team didn't want just the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead, that it also needed wins. Well, he got one Saturday night, taking the lead from Jimmie Johnson with 40 laps to go and eventually claiming the checkered flag in the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Here are some quick thoughts on the race:

    What it means: Biffle leaves Texas having increased the Cup points lead but also having won his first race since Kansas in October 2010. Along with the win, Biffle has three third-place finishes and hasn't finished worse than 13th. No one has been more consistent.

    Lots of green-flag laps: The Samsung Mobile 500 finished under green and had more than 200 consecutive green-flag laps leading up to that finish. It's the first time since 1999 at Homestead that there's been 200 or more consecutive green-flag laps at a superspeedway in a NASCAR event.

    Can't get 200: Hendrick Motorsports is still waiting for victory No. 200. Johnson appeared to have it in sight but Biffle was able to get around Johnson, who led the most laps. Johnson still doesn't have a win in 2012. This is Johnson's fifth runner-up finish in the past 12 races at TMS. He also has one win (November 2007) in that span.

    Mover and shaker: The most impressive move of the night has to go to Jeff Gordon, who started 34th (outside Row 17). He moved up steadily and got himself into the top 10 at the halfway point. Gordon, who had just one top-10 finish coming in, finished fourth. He struggled at TMS early in his career but won in April 2009 and had a top-10 in November (ending a streak of three straight finishes of 23rd or worse).

    Junior can't quite break through: Dale Earnhardt Jr. now has gone 136 races without a win. He ran pretty well Saturday night -- finished 10th after starting 16th -- and continues to have a solid start to the 2012 season, but he wasn't in Victory Lane. Junior last won in June 2008 in Michigan. He won at TMS in 2001 and 1998, and had two straight top-10 finishes in Texas coming into the race.

    Fuel system issue: Brad Keselowski started eighth (outside Row 4) and was competitive until he had a problem with the fuel system. He tried to hang around but was not running fast enough lap times to stay on the track consistently. He had to go to the garage and work on it on Lap 159. He did get back on the track to pick up as many points as he could.

    Wind factor: When the green flag dropped, winds were gusting at 21.5 mph from the south, meaning it was with the drivers on the backstretch and against them on the frontstretch. The wind coming out of Turn 3 might have contributed to Trevor Bayne touching the wall early in the race, but otherwise it didn't appear to be a big issue.

    Side-by-side racing? We didn't see much of it at TMS on Saturday night. The cars got spread out on the 1.5-mile oval thanks in large part to few cautions. The Nationwide race Friday was much more exciting racing than the Cup cars were Saturday. Plus, tires didn't appear to be wearing out much, something that's been the case all season.

    Smoke's struggles: Tony Stewart, who won at TMS in November and has run well in Texas, had to start in his backup car after a wreck in practice Friday. He started 29th but quickly dropped back from there and ended up 24th (two laps down). He wasn't able to generate any momentum or get the car where he wanted it. His crew tried a two-tire stop early in the race to gain some track position, but the car wasn't good enough to hold it. Debris cautions before the race was 100 laps old kept him from getting lapped, but he was lapped in the second half and just didn't have it. It's been a long time since Stewart, who was dominant at TMS in the fall and won the Sprint Cup title, has struggled this much.

    Golf meets racing: Denny Hamlin was hoping some of Bubba Watson's major championship luck would rub off on him this week in Texas. Hamlin, who won at Phoenix in the second race of the season, was Watson's caddie for the par-3 tournament at Augusta National Golf Club last week. Of course, Watson went on to win the green jacket as Masters champion. Hamlin worked his way up after a slow start but wasn't able to get all the way to the checkered flag, finishing12th.

    Crowd: The estimated attendance for Saturday night's race was 159,200. There weren't many empty seats in the frontstretch, but there were spots without folks on the backstretch. No matter how you look at it, it was a large crowd.

    What's next: The NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit heads to Kansas Speedway for the second annual STP 400. The race is April 22 at 1 p.m. ET with Keselowski as the defending champion.

    Carl Edwards trains with Fort Worth SWAT team

    March, 21, 2012
    PM CT

    Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards talks about training with the Fort Worth SWAT team, including a drill where hostage Eddie Gossage was rescued.

    Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse at TMS on Tuesday

    March, 5, 2012
    PM CT
    The Ben & Skin Show will be broadcasting live from Texas Motor Speedway from 9 a.m.-noon Tuesday as some of racing reigning champions visit for the track's annual media day.

    Among the guests to join TMS president Eddie Gossage will be reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, who beat runner-up Carl Edwards to the checkered flag during the fall race at TMS.

    Also visiting TMS will be Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse, Camping World Truck Series rookie and 2011 ARCA champion Ty Dillon, IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal and Foreigner lead singer Kelly Hansen.

    While listening to Ben & Skin, fans can also watch the festivities at texasmotorspeedway.com.

    History not on Carl Edwards' side at Daytona

    February, 19, 2012
    PM CT

    So Carl Edwards is on the pole for next Sunday's Daytona 500. That makes him the man to beat.


    Well, not necessarily.

    The last time the winner of the Daytona 500 pole went on to win the race? Dale Jarrett in 1996. The last 15 pole winners failed to win the Daytona 500.

    Last year's pole winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 24th in the race.

    So, wanna put your money on Carl Edwards? History may may make you want to rethink that one.

    Then again, history is made to be broken. We'll see Sunday.

    Top moment: How about Smoke vs. Carl?

    December, 27, 2011
    AM CT
    What an amazing year, unquestionably the biggest year in sports for Dallas-Fort Worth ever! No community in America has likely ever had a year in sports like the one we just enjoyed in 2011.

    The Mavs won the NBA world championship. TCU won the Rose Bowl. A Baylor football player -- RGIII -- won the Heisman Trophy. The Rangers played in the World Series. The Super Bowl was played here. Two PGA golf tournaments were played here. Two NASCAR races were run and twin IndyCar races were held in the same night. High school sports gave us unlimited stories of success and failure, opportunities and created memories for a lifetime. The Sporting news named us the nation's top sports city!

    As you try to wrap your arms around the most amazing year any city has enjoyed in sports, I would argue that the greatest individual performance by any athlete occurred here at Texas Motor Speedway in November when Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards began an emotional three-race battle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

    Stewart won here at TMS while Edwards, the points leader, finished second. One week later in Phoenix, Edwards finished second and Stewart third. In the season finale at Homestead, Stewart's stubborn competitive drive proved too much as he won the race with Edwards finishing a close second. The two ended the season tied in the points standings. A tiebreaker -- the driver with the most wins -- gave Stewart his third championship.

    What more can you ask for in sports? And it all started right here.

    Why do we watch sports? To see competitors win or lose. To see who has the strongest will. To find out who will refuse to lose. To see who is the most determined. To see who has the most grit. To see who can conquer their own fears and insecurities. To see who is mentally tough. TO SEE WHO HAS THE BIGGEST HEART.

    In a sport that must blend man and machine, the big, strong, determined heart that beats in Tony Stewart's chest was bigger than the 600 horsepower engine in Edwards' car. Stewart's will won out. And that come-from-behind run in the final three races of the season started right here at Texas Motor Speedway. All that is good in sports was on display right here that day in November.

    As you consider a remarkable year in sports for Dallas-Fort Worth, I wanted to remind you that Stewart and Edwards shined in the purest of ways that day. Fittingly, a simple race between two tough men was beautiful in the most graceful of ways.

    It may well be the highlight of the greatest year in sports for Dallas-Fort Worth. Ever.

    Stewart-Edwards was title fight for the ages

    November, 21, 2011
    AM CT

    Never in the history of motorsports have two titans rendered the sport simply a two-man show the way Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have over the final three race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

    Starting here at Texas Motor Speedway, the eighth of 10 races in the Chase, it was almost like there were no other cars on the track. At TMS, Stewart won and Edwards finished second. At Phoenix, Edwards finished second and Stewart third. And then it came down to the finale in Homestead, Fla., in front of a disappointing crowd amid rain delays at the small track.

    The focus was clearly on these two drivers. Old School Tony and the cerebral and physically fit Edwards. Both drove with their tongues hanging out, racing each lap as hard as they possibly could. Stewart looked like a man possessed, passing four-wide at a Homestead track where two-wide is pushing it. From time-to-time he let out a shout, sounding euphoric and delivering a message that he was leaving it all on the track. It was checkers or wreckers for him.

    [+] EnlargeCarl Edwards and Tony Stewart
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCARTony Stewart, right, put the hammer down on a number of occasions, including this four-wide pass of Carl Edwards, far left middle, and others.
    Edwards, though, led the most laps. He wasn’t to be outdone. And he calmly went about his pace with reserved discussion over the two-way radio with his crew chief, Bob Osborne.

    Speaking of crew chiefs, Darian Grubb was informed by Stewart-Haas Racing that he'd no longer have a job once the season ends. Now that he has guided Stewart’s team to the Sprint Cup championship, will that change? Not likely.

    Oddly, Grubb is both the newly crowned NASCAR Sprint Cup champion's crew chief and looking for a job. Awkward. But at least his asking price would appear to have risen. His call to save fuel and give up track position was gutsy. A timely caution benefited Stewart, and Grubb was fortunate. Instead of being champion, he could have wound up the turkey. But seven-time champion Richard Petty has always said he'd rather be lucky than good. Grubb has been both.

    If anybody ever asks again, what is the ratio between car and driver? Is the driver more important, or is the car more important? Over the last several races we have seen two great drivers carry their cars. Sure, the cars were prepared well. But these two drivers made their cars great. This was a driver's showdown, not a car or team showdown. Stewart and Edwards proved the driver can play as much of a role as they want.

    Sunday’s race reminded me of the first fight between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden. Both fought out of sheer will. Frazier won the 15-rounder by decision. Afterwards, both fighters were hospitalized for their injuries. Rumors circulated that Frazier had, in fact, died (not true -- Fraizer died two weeks ago at age 67 after a bout with liver cancer.

    That kind of sacrifice, self-discipline and will power makes an athlete not merely great, but truly legendary.

    The performance by Stewart and Edwards puts them forever into that legendary status.

    Tony Stewart outduels Carl Edwards for Chase title

    November, 21, 2011
    AM CT

    In a classic showdown, Tony Stewart beat Carl Edwards to win the Ford 500 in the season finale at Homestead to capture his third Sprint Cup championship.

    The two drivers finished tied in points -- the first time that's happened in NASCAR history -- but Stewart won the season title based on his five race victories during the Chase, including his win at Texas Motor Speedway.

    From Ed Hinton's perspective:
    Tony Stewart drove a race for the ages. He won a championship for the ages. And Carl Edwards, in all-out pursuit to the end, helped Stewart seal Sunday's Ford 400 as the best NASCAR season finale there ever has been -- and probably ever will be.

    They finished 1-2 on the track, they finished tied in points for the first time in NASCAR history, and Stewart won the championship on the first tiebreaker, most race wins, with five to Edwards' one this season.

    "If this doesn't go down as one of the greatest championship battles in history, I don't know what will," Stewart said in Victory Lane.

    He needn't even qualify this with "one of …"

    NASCAR having its best season ever

    November, 16, 2011
    AM CT

    Epic. The best ever. The greatest of all time.

    Thirty-five races down and one to go. We’ve made it to the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Carl Edwards leads the standings by just three points over Tony Stewart and the two have 267 laps left to settle who will be crowned the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

    NASCAR is in its best season ever. We’ve got two titans of the sport battling in the third-tightest point spread leading into the season finale. Edwards and Stewart have eliminated the remaining 10 Chase competitors from earning the 2011 title, and now it’s time to let them race it out on the track.

    There are several championship-winning scenarios depending on where Edwards and Stewart finish Sunday. A win for either would mean the title, but if Edwards finishes ahead of Stewart, he earns the championship. In Stewart’s favor is his tiebreaker status (most wins), so he only needs to tie Edwards to win his third championship.

    The stats for Edwards and Stewart at Homestead-Miami Speedway intensify the epic showdown even more, as each have two wins at the track. Stewart set the race record at 140.335 mph when he won the inaugural race in 1999 and earned his second win the following year. Edwards posted wins in 2008 and 2010.

    Edwards and Stewart have brought out the best in each other, performing their finest when the season was on the line. They finished first and second at Texas, and second and third Sunday at Phoenix. Edwards’ last two finishes (second and second) and Stewart’s last two finishes (first and third) means both have an average finish of 2.0 in the last two races.

    Since the inception of the position-based points system in 1975, only three drivers have made up a points deficit in the season finale: Richard Petty in 1979 (made up two points on Darrell Waltrip), Alan Kulwicki in 1992 (made up 30 points on Davey Allison) and Jimmie Johnson in 2010 (made up 15 points on Denny Hamlin). Just as the great duels between these racing prodigies, I hope people will look at this season down the road and say, “Wow. That was a good year.”

    For now, I hope people will enjoy the competitiveness this season has brought. I also hope people will appreciate and respect what our defending champion Jimmie Johnson, who has five consecutive titles, has accomplished, because it will never happen again.

    Epic. The best ever. The greatest of all time. Hyperboles in describing both the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season or the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title?

    No. I think it stands up as simple fact.

    Chase goes down to wire for Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart

    November, 14, 2011
    AM CT

    There's only one race remaining in the Sprint Cup season, and only three points separating the top two drivers in the Chase for the Championship -- Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.

    After Stewart beat Edwards to the finish line for a 1-2 finish in Texas last week, Edwards had the better car on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway -- barely. Edwards finished second, while Stewart was third.

    Oh, by the way, Kasey Kahne won the race. And in case you were wondering, five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson was eliminated.

    Here's David Newton's take on the Sprint Cup shenanigans on Sunday:
    Carl Edwards entered the media center late Sunday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway and took a seat a few feet from Tony Stewart with only a black chair separating them.

    "If you want, we can eliminate the chair," joked Stewart as Edwards slid even closer to the two-time Sprint Cup champion.

    Quipped Edwards, "We're good."

    These two have been that close on the track for most of the past three weeks. They will be that close heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with Stewart behind Edwards by a mere three points with all the marbles on the line.

    For more of the story on this epic points battle, click here.

    Battle is on between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards

    October, 31, 2011
    PM CT

    It seems the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has woken a sleeping giant. Tony Stewart picked up his third win in the Chase yesterday at Martinsville and jumped from fourth to second in the championship standings. He now trails leader Carl Edwards by a mere eight points.

    “Carl Edwards had better be real worried,” said Stewart in Victory Lane yesterday. “That’s all I’ve got to say. He’s not going to have an easy three weeks.”

    Edwards responded with, “He's wound up. He won the race. We'll see what happens (this week) at Texas.”

    Here’s Stewart who was almost a non-contender entering the Chase and now he’s made a complete 180 degree turn -- a perfect example of how quickly a team can rebound in the new Chase points system when it find that competitive edge. The luck can turn the opposite way just as fast, but now Stewart can taste a third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and he’s not going down without a fight.

    You couldn’t have picked two better guys to be battling in this Chase. Stewart was the last champion before Jimmie Johnson began his title-winning spree and Edwards is hungry for his first. I think of Ali vs. Frazier, the Yankees and the Red Sox, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

    This championship battle has a feel for the makings of a classic, epic slugfest. In fact, if you offered them a boxing ring to have at it after 500 miles of hard racing, I don’t think either one would turn the offer down. (Hey, that’s an idea!)

    The AAA Texas 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway is perfect timing for this rivalry to get heated up. Wild and crazy things have been known to occur at this place during the Chase. Last year we saw crew guys being shuffled, a fight on the backstretch and an official served with a hand gesture. The intensity of this year’s Chase is even higher, so I can only imagine what this race has in store for us.


    Pressure is on as Chase heats up

    October, 11, 2011
    PM CT
    The intensity in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup grew even higher Sunday at Kansas as Jimmie Johnson earned his second win of the season and Carl Edwards took the series lead by one point over Kevin Harvick. But it seems like there’s only one thing on the public’s mind: “We’re tired of Johnson winning championships.”

    While I understand Johnson and this sport seems like a broken record (excuse the pun), I’d like to remind everyone of the unique season we’ve seen.

    First let’s consider the repeat Cinderella story. Prior to this season, never before had NASCAR seen first-time winners in the Daytona 500, Southern 500 and Brickyard 400 in one year. In fact, even just the Daytona 500 and Southern 500 had never seen first-time winners in the same season. That’s good stuff.

    Next I want to bring up the heated competition. Yes, I’m talking about feuds and controversy. Fireworks erupting between Harvick and Kyle Busch at Darlington, Johnson and Kurt Busch at Richmond and Pocono, Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya at Darlington, and Greg Biffle and Boris Said at Watkins Glen.

    “He is the most unprofessional little scaredy cat I've ever seen in my life,” Said said about Biffle. “He wouldn't even fight me like a man after. So if someone texts me his address, I'll go see him Wednesday at his house and show him what he really needs.”

    Talk about drama. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

    Then you’ve got drivers like Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. making remarkable comebacks, clinching a spot in the Chase and actually being in contention to win the title. And let’s not forget Jeff Gordon earning his 85th victory, passing Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for third place on the all-time wins list.

    It’s been a very competitive year, and this could turn out to be a magical season. It reminds me of 1992 when Alan Kulwicki, an underdog, recorded one of the greatest championship comebacks in NASCAR history, rebounding from a 278-point deficit with six races remaining. Kulwicki edged Bill Elliott by 10 points to become the series champion -- the closest championship margin at the time.

    Now we’re down to six races and nine guys still have a legitimate shot, but somebody’s feelings are about to get hurt. There’s no room for mistakes now. You can’t leave anything on the table. Get ready NASCAR nation, because the pressure’s on.

    Analyzing the Chase field: Watch the top 6

    September, 12, 2011
    PM CT

    After Saturday’s race at Richmond, the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field has been set. So who’s going to be crowned champion this season? Even though 12 drivers compete in the Chase, you have to look hard at the top six.

    1. Kyle Busch – The most talented driver in the series. He’s got outstanding equipment and a very competitive edge. He’s matured in his eight-year career, but has he matured enough?

    2. Kevin Harvick – With four wins this season, including Saturday night at Richmond, he’s got incredible momentum. The last two years he has loitered at the top of the standings. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the championship.

    3. Jeff Gordon – Someone you definitely need to keep an eye on. His post-race interview Saturday night may have been a giveaway that he knows something we don’t. He was uncharacteristically enthusiastic. He may know his team either has a technical advantage or a great sense of momentum. He’s a popular pick of the pundits to win his fifth championship.

    4. Matt Kenseth – My dark horse candidate. Kenseth always seems to poke his nose into contention when it’s money time. He’s got amazing talent in knowing how to go the distance, whether it’s 500 laps or 10 races.

    5. Carl Edwards – A tough competitor. He’s been atop the standings all season and is very smart with a race car. He could win his first championship and would be a very popular champion.

    6. Jimmie Johnson – Knows how to play the Chase better than anybody. “Five-Time” could easily become “Six-Time.” He’s extremely focused on the championship and chasing down Earnhardt and the King’s seven NASCAR Sprint Cup titles. To quote the great Rick Flair, “To be the man, you gotta’ beat the man.” And nobody’s beaten JJ in five years. Will somebody this year?

    I’m not ruling out the remaining six drivers – Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. These guys are very unpredictable. Don’t be surprised to see Keselowski or Hamlin come out of nowhere and win this thing.

    We’ve got 10 races to go starting with Chicago this weekend, including the AAA Texas 500 here at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 4th. We’ll see how it plays out.