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Stewart, Edwards rolling with punches

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage dropped the ball. His promotional genius was working overtime this week to play up the Carl Edwards versus Tony Stewart showdown with three races to go for the Sprint Cup title.

Gossage left one thing out. He doesn't have Michael Buffer to stand on the start-finish line moments before the green flag and say: "Let's get ready to RUMBLE!"

"He costs too much money," Gossage said. "Even if you just play those words on the PA, I think you have to pay him $10,000."

And an appearance by Don King would have rocked the house, although Mr. Electric Hair is on a giant banner behind pit road with Gossage, Edwards and Stewart.

"Actually, I did call Don," Gossage said. "We've known each other a long time. But he said he has a thing to do Saturday night and couldn't get here. I told him I would send a plane for him Sunday morning, but he said, 'I'm over 70 years old. I can't move that fast.'"

Oh well, Gossage said he still has more up his sleeve before the race begins.

The TMS media center this weekend has lockers for both the combatants, including boxing gloves and silk robes -- a red one for Stewart that reads "Smoke" on the back, and a black one for Edwards that reads "Cousin Carl."

There's also a 6-foot poster titled "Tale of the Tape" that lists the attributes of each boxer, um, I mean each driver.

It's all in fun, of course, and plays up the fact that two of NASCAR's most popular drivers are in a tight points battle for the 2012 championship. Stewart trails Edwards by only eight points (essentially only eight spots in one race) after Smoke's victory at Martinsville last weekend.

It doesn't hurt matters that both these guys know how to handle the media. They aren't Don King, but they aren't bad.

Stewart threw down on Edwards moments after the Martinsville win: "Carl better be worried. He's not going to have it easy the next three weeks."

Edwards initial response: "We'll see what happens. They're going to have to race us, too."

Stewart was back at it Friday afternoon at TMS: "I've got him backed into a corner," he said about Edwards.

It's all part of the show folks. These guys get it. The more they can play up the next three races, the better it is for everyone.

"It's fun," Edwards said Friday. "We get along really well. But it's good to see how Eddie has had fun with it. But all the talk doesn't mean anything. You have to perform.

"I've thought a lot really about the competition. No offense to Tony, but I think the guys behind him are the guys with the biggest chance to do well the last three races."

Kevin Harvick is third, only 21 points behind the first-place Edwards. Brad Keselowski, the surprise of the Chase, is 27 points behind in fourth. And don't completely count out Matt Kenseth yet. He's fifth, 36 points back, and he's driving the car that won at TMS is April.

But the fact is that no driver outside the top two before the final three races has ever won a Chase-era championship.

"This is a tough series," Stewart said this week. "It's been a tough Chase. This is the best Chase field we've ever had. You work hard all year to try to be in the position we're in right now. Obviously, it's a great feeling."

As it turns out, Edwards will start right behind Stewart on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN). Stewart is on the inside of Row 3 and Edwards is on the inside spot of Row 4.

So when all the hype is set aside, who has the advantage?

"There couldn't be a better racetrack for us," Edwards said about TMS.

Edwards has three Cup victories at Texas and finished third in April. And Jack Roush's drivers have dominated on the TMS oval. Roush Fenway Racing has eight Cup victories at TMS. No other team has more than three.

Stewart also has enjoyed some success at TMS, winning the fall race in 2006. He's also the hottest driver coming in, with three Chase victories. Edwards has one win this season, and that was eight months ago in Las Vegas.

"I feel like luck has been a part of it," Edwards said of his points lead. "But I'm OK with that. We've been on the other end of luck in the past. We've never been in this good a position before. I feel like we're in a really good spot."

Texas, Phoenix and Homestead, Fla., the final three events, are three of Edwards' best tracks.

"In a way, a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders in that we made it through the toughest races for us," Edwards said. "Now we have these tracks that everyone on the team is excited about.

"You're going to have to go out and take every point you can. You're going to have to try to lead laps, lead the most laps, go hard on the restarts. It's just too close and too many things can happen."

Both drivers have one win at Phoenix, the next race, but Edwards won there one year ago. Stewart won at Phoenix in 1999. However, Phoenix has a new layout and new pavement, which makes next week's race a complete unknown.

Stewart and Edwards have two victories each at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Edwards has won two of the last three season finales, including last year. A Roush driver has won six of the past seven races at Homestead.

Stewart hasn't won at Homestead since 2000. But Stewart has two Cup championships, including one in the Chase format. Edwards is still looking for his first.

So take your ringside seat and see what happens. King and Buffer won't be here but the hype is full force, and two of the best drivers in the business are going to take their best shot.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.