Tag:Carl Edwards
Posted on: November 17, 2011 2:15 pm

Video: Inside NASCAR debates Edwards vs. Stewart

Unbelievably close, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are running neck-and-neck in the standings for the Sprint Cup. The hosts of Inside NASCAR discuss Edwards and Stewart in a web-exclusive.

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 7:03 pm

Wins vs. consistency a delicate balance

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Stewart has celebrated four times in victory lane during the Chase but does not lead the standings)

Brian France
hoped stock car racing could create more "Game 7" moments in the coming seasons when he made his annual state of the sport address to the media last season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The NASCAR CEO has to be pleased with what transpired over the course of the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup because that's exactly what will happen at Sunday's Ford 400.

Either Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart will leave South Florida with the Sprint Cup trophy, the duo separated by only three points in the closest battle heading into the last race of the year in Chase history. There's no other strategy in place for either driver to do anything but try to win the race and in turn the championship.

Throughout the first nine weeks of the playoffs both drivers have worked hard to get to the point they face Sunday in what boils down to a winner take all finale.

"That is cool, I couldn't ask for anything more," said Edwards after his second place finish in Phoenix last Sunday. "It is going to be fun. It is neat to go to Homestead and race it out. I am sure these guys are going to be good down there. They are fast at the mile-and-a-half tracks.

"I love that place. I am really pumped up for Homestead, I think it is going to be a good time."

Stewart followed Edwards across the finish line in third and believes there's no reason to think they won't run as closely together again in Homestead as they did in Phoenix.

"He's keeping me honest, I'm keeping him honest," Stewart said. "It's fun when we're first and second in the points and we're running first and second on the racetrack the last two weeks. It shows why we're both in this position.

"We just got to keep doing what we're doing. We got to keep the pressure on. Two weeks in a row we've led the most laps. Really proud of that. Proud of the pressure we're putting on him. A lot can happen in 400 miles next week. As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead heat going in there. We just got to do our job like we've been doing. To have three top three finishes in the last three weeks, pretty proud of that."

So as Edwards and Stewart sit 1-2 in the standings ready to fight it out for the title, the journey each driver took to get to their positions in the standings are much different.

Edwards has pretty much been been a model of consistency since the beginning of the season. With the exception of a short stretch in late summer when his performance was a bit off, not coincidentally in conjunction with Edwards' contract negotiations for a new deal, the Roush Fenway Racing driver has come home near the front of the field on a regular basis. Edwards has racked up 18 top five and 25 top 10 finishes over 35 races.

Conversely Stewart's run to title contention took a different route. The Stewart-Haas Racing owner/driver has only managed eight top five and 18 top 10 finishes coming into Homestead.

But Stewart has peaked at exactly the right time, kicking off the Chase with back-to-back wins at Chicago and New Hampshire and then rattling off two straight again with victories in Martinsville and Texas.

If Edwards comes out of Homestead without taking the checkered flag but maintaining his lead over Stewart for the title he'll go through the entire 10 race playoffs winless, yet will be crowned champion.

That would leave Stewart in the bridesmaid role despite winning nearly half of the races inside the Chase.

Is that the best scenario of NASCAR?

Probably not.

Truth be told it wouldn't be the first time it has happened, with Stewart owning a NEXTEL Cup despite sliding through the Chase in that championship season without a trip to Victory Lane.

Try as it might to find a balance between winning and consistency, NASCAR is in a tough position. With this year's switch to a more concise point distribution system as well as seeding the Chase by wins from the regular season and adding in two wild- card berths based on victories from the first 26 races of the campaign, the sanctioning body had hoped to put more of an emphasis on winning.

To an extent that's happened. The three-point advantage Edwards currently has over Stewart can be traced back to his bonus for winning back in the spring.

But when the spotlight is greatest and the playoff race begins, there's a good argument winning should have even more of a premium.

In any other sport, wins are what advances teams through the postseason. One loss and a year can be over in a flash, despite what was accomplished during the regular campaign.

But NASCAR is different than its stick and ball counterparts. Unlike football, baseball, basketball and hockey there are 43 teams, not two, on the track every week. Awarding points based on where a driver finishes each week makes sense over the long haul of a grinding 36-week schedule. Abandoning that format once the Chase begins would be wildly inconsistent with the overall concept NASCAR has had in place for roughly three decades.

However weighting wins with an additional point or two, say five as a bonus rather than just the three now in place, would give more incentive to crossing the finish line first, rather than using a conservative approach that some teams have had no problem putting into place in previous title runs.

The core of any sport is to win. NASCAR has moved much closer to finding that delicate balance between victories and consistency but one more nudge of the pendulum toward the winner's circle would make it even better.

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Posted on: November 15, 2011 4:14 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 10:48 am

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

By Pete Pistone

The 2011 NASCAR season is one race away from going into the record book. All three of the sanctioning body’s top divisions have featured tight championship battles going down to the wire but none closer than the three points separating Cart Edwards from Tony Stewart in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But when the Cup champion is finally crowned in Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway it might be the second most memorable story of the season.

Unfortunately a year marred by a series of intentional paybacks and retaliation is what 2011 may be most remembered for producing.

The “Boys Have at It” era reached yet another low last Sunday in Phoenix when Brian Vickers purposely put Matt Kenseth into the wall as an obvious carryover from their feud at Martinsville two weeks earlier.

Kenseth said he knew it was coming because Vickers had told people all week he planned to extract more revenge for the duo’s several tangles at Martinsville. Vickers denied the accusation saying Kenseth does still have one coming except what happened at Phoenix wasn’t it.

"I wasn't planning on paying him back," Vickers said. "He wrecked me at Martinsville; he got wrecked here. I'm not saying I wasn't going to pay him back; I'm just saying that wasn't it." 

NASCAR saw it as a “racing incident” and did nothing to punish Vickers chalking it up to just two drivers competing for the same piece of real estate. 

But only a week earlier, the sanctioning body came down with a mighty blow on Kyle Busch for his intentional wrecking of Ron Hornaday in a Texas Motor Speedway truck race. Busch got parked for the remainder of the weekend’s races at TMS including Sunday’s Sprint Cup main event and was also fined $50,000 while being placed on probation until the end of the season. Busch’s problems continued through the following days when sponsors pulled out of agreements and team owner Joe Gibbs lowered the boom internally with disciplinary actions. 

All of which begs the question of what the difference was between what Busch did and how Vickers behaved on Sunday. 

It’s true that Busch’s actions took place well under caution and that certainly made it a much more egregious affair in the eyes of NASCAR. Insubordination is not a favorite display of behavior of the sanctioning body. 

But other than that it’s hard to make a case for Vickers at least not being parked for the remainder of the Phoenix race, as Busch was initially in the aftermath of the Texas tangle. 

The inconsistent enforcement in any of these cases has seriously impacted NASCAR’s credibility once again.

The intent of “Boys Have at It” was simple – to allow drivers to race each other hard and not worry about NASCAR stepping in and overly officiate races. 

Fans had cried for the return of “rubbin’ is racin” for years and when NASCAR decided to relax its grip the hope was to increase the level of competition and excitement. 

But now two years later the creed has turned things into a free for all and created an environment more in line with “wreckin’ is racin’,” which it is absolutely not. 

From the moment Carl Edwards flipped Brad Keselowski in a payback move at Atlanta in 2010, the Pandora’s Box was ripped wide open. NASCAR’s mild reaction of basically just probation for Edwards’ act set the bar for how this Wild West environment would be tolerated. 

It led to a multitude of intentional paybacks and retaliatory moves that weren’t limited to just the Sprint Cup Series but included ugly incidents in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Time and again NASCAR turned its head and refused to make any kind of call for even the most flagrant of fouls. 

And although there was supposedly some kind of line drawn after Busch’s actions in Texas, Sunday’s move by Vickers clearly demonstrates payback crashing is still very much an accepted form of behavior. 

It has to stop and immediately is not soon enough. 

NASCAR has to step up and do what major league professional sports leagues are supposed to do, govern their events and make the tough calls. Simply sitting back and letting drivers police themselves is not doing anything but giving every race the potential to turn into a county fair demolition derby rather than a big league auto racing event. 

It’s ironic that weekly short track officials around the country have less tolerance for the kind of behavior that many of the supposed best drivers in the world have been demonstrating. Any of the blatant spin outs or wrecks that have occurred across NASCAR’s top three divisions in the last two years would have resulted in a short track driver being parked or banned more often than not. 

But in NASCAR today it’s not penalized but rather encouraged. 

The off season is right around the corner and there will be plenty of time for NASCAR officials to discuss how to reign in this embarrassing behavior and provide some sanity to the sport.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 8:05 pm

Championship clinching scenarios

Provided by NASCAR Media

Sprint Cup

Only one finish guarantees Carl Edwards his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship –- a victory in Sunday’s season-finale Ford 400.

Just three points separate points leader Carl Edwards and second-place Tony Stewart, a margin so tight, no other finish would automatically clinch the title for Edwards.

Stewart owns the tie-breaker (best finishes), and therefore could tie and win his third series championship.

All other drivers are officially eliminated from championship contention.

Edwards’ three-point lead roughly translates to 13 points under the previous points system. That makes it the closest margin between first and second going into the final race in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ history, and third-closest since the inception of the position-based points structure in 1975.

Nationwide Series

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will clinch the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship with a finish of 37th or better; or 38th or better with at least one lap led; or 39th or better with most laps led at Homestead.

Only one point separates the points leading No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in the NASCAR Nationwide Series owners standings.

Only one finish guarantees the No. 18 a championship –- a victory in Saturday’s Ford 300.

Both teams have eight wins on the season, but the No. 60 has nine second-place finishes (the No. 18 has five) – giving the No. 60 the tie-breaker.

The No. 60 would win the owners title by gaining one or more points on the No. 18 on Saturday.

Truck Series

Austin Dillon owns a 20-point lead over Johnny Sauter heading into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finale. James Buescher also remains in title contention, 28 points behind Dillon. Ron Hornaday Jr., 48 points behind Dillon, will be eliminated as soon as Dillon starts at Homestead.

Dillon guarantees himself his first championship by finishing 16th or better; or 17th or better with at least one lap led; or 18th or better with the most laps led in Friday night’s Ford 200.

Kevin Harvick Inc.’s No. 2 Chevrolet clinched the 2011 owners championship last week at Texas Motor Speedway. It was KHI’s third owners title.

This season, six different drivers have piloted the No. 2:  Kevin Harvick (nine races), Elliott Sadler (five), Clint Bowyer (four), Ron Hornaday Jr. (three), David Mayhew (two) and Cale Gale (one). Harvick is scheduled to drive next Friday at Homestead.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 7:38 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 7:56 pm

Speed Read: Phoenix

By Pete Pistone


Kobalt Tools 500 Race Recap

AVONDALE, Ariz. - The angst of just what to expect at the new and hopefully improved Phoenix International Raceway turned out to be all for nothing.

Despite the massive reconfiguration and repaving of the track that caused many to worry about a potential crashfest, Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 was a competitive and exciting affair.

The championship battle wasn't negatively impacted at all, much to the relief of NASCAR who had hoped to hype a tight title fight heading into next week's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

And the sanctioning body got its wish.

Carl Edwards held serve with a second place finish, Tony Stewart stayed hot on his heels finishing third and the two go to the Ford 400 separated by only three points - the closest championship race in the history of the Chase.

Color both drivers happy with what lies ahead.

"That is cool," Edwards said. "I couldn’t ask for anything more. It is going to be fun. It is neat to go to Homestead and race it out. I am sure these guys are going to be good down there. They are fast at the mile-and-a-half tracks. I love that place. I am proud of my guys today. They did a great job on pit road. Tony was really fast and we got our car tuned in and we were able to race with them and compete. It was a good hard fought day. I am really pumped for Homestead, I think it is going to be a good time.”

Stewart was disappointed he couldn't close the gap further to Edwards but still likes his chances for a third Sprint Cup championship.

"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 and we’ll make him sweat it out.”

Don't expect the pressure of being involved in the third-closest points championship in NASCAR history to rattle either driver. Both have been in title races before and both expect to rise to the challenge.

"I'm not thinking of that," said Stewart.  "I'm just thinking of the three points."

So is the rest of NASCAR Nation. Which is exactly what everyone had hoped for when the season began.


Carl Edwards

Still does not have a win in the Chase but maintains the Chase point lead with only one race left on the schedule. No matter how hard Stewart tries to close the gap Edwards simply won't allow it with the consistent finishes needed to win the championship. You'd have to think the edge goes to the Roush Fenway Racing driver next week in Homestead, a track that has been one of the team's playgrounds for years.

Kasey Kahne

Became the season's 18th different winner and his stock continues to climb. Somehow amid all the turmoil going on at Team Red Bull, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis continue to shine. Their future looks very bright indeed when the take their act to Hendrick Motorsports next season and Kahne could definitely end the year with back to back wins.

Jeff Burton

The veteran driver's mostly forgettable season has taken a definite turn for the better in recent weeks. Followed up his nearly winning last week's Texas race on fuel strategy with a fourth place finish on Sunday and had a very strong race car all afternoon. Richard Childress Racing's fortunes could be in Burton's hands next year as he looks very close to returning to the competitive form he held for several years.



Kyle Busch

Did his best to write his very own Cinderella story only to come up short because of another engine issue for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. After his tumultuous week of controversy in the aftermath of last week's Texas incident Busch was forced to start at the rear of the field for an engine change before he even made it on track. Busch had worked his way up to as high as third before being hit again by engine woes that ended his day.

Jimmie Johnson

A mediocre fourteenth place finish officially ended Johnson's title run and put a finish to his amazing streak of five straight championships. It was a remarkable accomplishment that more than likely will never be done again but there has to be some disappointment inside the 48 team that Johnson was not really a factor in this year's Chase and his performance on Sunday was a microcosm of the 2011 playoff effort. 

Brian Vickers

Vickers continued his vendetta against Matt Kenseth that blossomed in Martinsville two weeks ago. He reportedly told several people of his intention to purposely wreck Kenseth on Sunday and followed through on it. "Boys Have at It" is apparently back to where it started as NASCAR did nothing to reprimand Vickers, who may have punished himself by displaying behavior that might not be the best way to attract a ride he is looking for in 2012.


(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

"We go to Homestead with the points lead. It couldn't be better." - Carl Edwards

"It feels reeeeeaaaaalllly nice right now." - Tony Stewart on the early race handling of his car

"The guys that are too loose are running better than the guys that are too tight." - Mark Martin

"Geoff Bodine! He couldn't drive 20 years ago." - Kevin Harvick's crew chief Gil Martin after Bodine's third accident of the day

"The brake pedal just went to the floor. I'm going to take it easy here. It's just real spongy." - Jeff Gordon

"We can never learn from our mistakes. Brilliant. Just brilliant." - Kurt Busch after running out of fuel

Race Rating

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 a four. All the worries about the new track layout and repaved racing surface perhaps having a negative impact on the race and the championship were erased pretty early on. The "new" Phoenix provided one of the most entertaining races of the Chase and the two guys in the middle of the title fight were front and center all afternoon long. The three and four wide racing was some of the best of the season and with a little "Boys Have at It" drama thrown into the mix with Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers, the Kobalt Tools 500 was a nice way to help bring the season to its final curtain.


Down the Road

The long and winding NASCAR road comes to a close next Sunday with the end of season visit to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford 400. The championship will again go down to the wire and although there isn't the four or five driver free-for-all some predicted when the Chase began nine weeks ago, there's still a very interesting and dramatic title story to be written. The 1.5-mile Homestead track isn't the typical intermediate speedway with its various grooves and multiple lanes of racing so get ready for what has the makings of being a pretty good way to throw the final checkered flag of the season

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 

Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:36 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 9:21 pm

Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne post Texas comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, we had a really good Red Bull Toyota. Moved up right away at the start at that long run. Then we just kind of stayed there from about fifth to seventh, trying to get a little bit more speed. The car was just a little bit too loose to get much further than that.           

We pitted. The caution came out. Ended up in the front. Then we were strong. We were battling there with Tony, who I felt was definitely the best car throughout the whole race. We battled with him for a while. Took four, got back to eighth, came back to third.           

It was a good run. Track position was a big deal. Even on those long runs, it would get spread out. The guy out front could make up some ground. You needed to be as close to the front as possible.           

The whole team did a good job. We were pretty close.           

I watched Tony and Carl. They're going for it. Tony raced me as hard as he ever raced me. I had to race as hard as I could. They're trying to get as many points as they can. It's intense trying to win these races right now. It's super close.           

THE MODERATOR: Questions.            

Q. Certainly Tony has been strong here on the mile-and-a-half's. What do you see out of him, that team, during the Chase where things picked up?           

KASEY KAHNE: Well, I mean, they have great cars, great engines. It's a great organization over there. I think what they got in the last little while is confidence. Tony knows he's the fastest guy here. His crew's behind him. They're doing everything right.           

The problem is they're going against Carl, who also think he's the fastest guy here. It's going to be good. It's going to be really good all the way up till the end, especially if nobody has issues car-wise or makes a mistake, crash, get caught up in someone else's deal. It's going to be fun to watch.            

Q. What about you guys? A lot of guys wrote you off.           

KASEY KAHNE: Last week those guys wrecked in front of us. Went four laps down. The Red Bull team just keeps doing a good job. They're working hard. It's pretty impressive for a lot of them not knowing their future, not knowing what's going on there, if there will be a two-car team or one-car team to keep putting the cars on the track like they are.           

I'm happy to come to the track and drive and work with Kenny Francis and the whole team.           

Q. Did y'all have any tire trouble?           

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, we didn't have any. Kenny thought the left sides were tearing up pretty good, so we took four. I think seven cars in front of us, Carl and Tony, four or five others, took two. We came out eighth just because of that. Seemed like two tires were pretty good. Wasn't a huge advantage to have four like I thought it might be.            

Q. Kasey, don't mean to put you on the spot, but who you putting your money on over the next two weeks?           

KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think I kind of answered that a minute ago. I said Tony thinks he's the guy right now. The guy he's going against think he's the guy. It's going to be a battle to the end.          

Truthfully I have no idea. I know both of them have a lot of confidence and have been strong. It will be interesting. I wish I was in the Chase. But not being in the Chase, it's pretty fun to sit there and watch. I'm excited to watch all the way through the finals at Homestead.           

Q. How much are you looking forward to taking the information you got here with you over to Hendrick Motorsports next season?          

KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think what Kenny Francis does, kind of the way we do things might be a little bit different than Hendrick. The way they do things is really positive, too.           

It will be fun to put it all together. There's tracks where they beat us bad and there's tracks where we run pretty well. Hopefully we can all put it together and make some gains, make Hendrick Motorsports a little bit stronger than it already is.           

THE MODERATOR: Kasey, thank you.           

We're joined in the media center by tonight's second-place finisher, Carl Edwards. He walks away with a three-point lead.           

Carl, you didn't get the win, but you are still at the top of the Chase. Talk about that and your run tonight.           

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, proud of our guys for turning what looked like was going to be a bad night overall, or a disaster really in the points, into something that was really manageable, something we can move forward with.           

Obviously definitely we wanted to beat Tony tonight and pad that lead a little bit. At the end of the day we can walk out of here with our heads up. We're still the points leaders. The third and fourth guys, I'm not sure how far back they are, but we had to open up a little bit of space on them, which is good.           

Man, we're just going to hold Tony to it. They're going to have to run that well to beat us these next two races. I think really it's going to be a great battle. I'm excited about it.           

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Carl.            

Q. Carl, I had the impression around lap 150 that you lost a little bit of speed and the second part of the race you improved. Can you tell me what kind of changes you had done.           

CARL EDWARDS: We struggled a little bit with the balance. The car was kind of all over the place. I was really proud of the guys for getting it tuned back in. At the end, I think if we would have had one more stop, we could have made another adjustment, made it a little better. I'm sure everybody could say the same thing.          

We never got it quite right. Like I said in here on Thursday or Friday, we gave the best performance we could. We lost a little bit of ground. But it could have been a lot worse. So I'm really proud of my guys. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't do anything differently. That was a good, solid race for us.            

Q. Looking forward to Phoenix, what do you anticipate there? You did two tire tests there. What do you think of the tire? What do you think your chances are? Did you have confidence when you left the place?           

CARL EDWARDS: I think that Phoenix is still a huge unknown. Tony was out there at that tire test with us. I got to see how good those guys were.           

I feel like we're going to be pretty good. Yeah, I think really the surprising thing for all of us today was how well Tony ran here. I didn't expect him to run quite that well. Those guys, they did a really good job. It makes me think that Homestead could be a lot closer than I expected before this race.           

We'll go to Homestead with the same package, same ideas, and hopefully have a similar performance. It looks like Tony might be in the same boat. Their mile-and-a-half program is good.           

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.            

Q. Carl, you and Tony raced pretty clean on the track. Tony has been throwing down for the last two weeks. I recall last year Jimmie Johnson talking about Denny Hamlin, Jedi mind tricks. At some point are you going to do your Jedi mind tricks on Tony?           

CARL EDWARDS: No. I go out and compete as hard as I can. It is fun to joke around a little bit. But at the end of the day, I mean, any extra energy I spend thinking about other stuff or worrying about other things is not spent in the right place. I'm focusing on what I'm doing. It would be really fun to be standing up there last one on stage at the banquet. I might have a couple jokes then. That would be a good time for them. I learned early in life you have to be careful about throwing the jabs out there. Somebody might get you.           

Q. Carl, you said you were surprised a little bit about Tony's performance here today. Can you explain why you were surprised. Secondly, that team can say for three straight weeks they've gained points on you. You are still the points leader, but how do you address that with your team because in situations like this it can be easier being the pursuer?          

CARL EDWARDS: I think we're very fortunate to have led the points for as long as we have this season. 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.            

Q. What surprised you about them tonight?           

CARL EDWARDS: I was surprised they were able to put together two weeks that were so good. That was really good work on their part.  There's nothing saying that that will play into another solid two weeks after that, but it very well could.           

We're going to go home, work hard, put all our notes together from our test at Phoenix, do the best we can.           

From the way practice went and everything, I thought we'd have a little bit more of an advantage. I thought we'd have a little advantage tonight. They did all their jobs very well.            

Q. The last few years in the Nationwide Series till the bitter end you chased the eventual champion, whether it was Kyle or Clint. How do you think that experience of just being there until the very end and never giving up has affected what you're going through right now?           

CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. I forget about those things. But I guess you keep the lessons with you. I think at least to this point the story of our season, the story of this Chase for us has been never quitting, never giving up. No matter how well someone runs, we're going to be right there racing them every lap, racing them hard.           

I think that having those championship battles in the Nationwide Series, a couple in the Cup Series lately, I think they've made us tougher in general and a little wiser. I guess the best way to sum it up is to say I feel more comfortable in this points battle than in any other points battle I can remember. I feel like we only have to worry about one other guy. We still have the advantage in the points. I've raced Tony long enough, I feel comfortable with him, he's not going to surprise me with anything. I'm grateful for all that experience. I hope I can turn that into a championship.            

Q. It seemed like an extremely clean race. Do you think a lot of the drivers after they kind of saw the 'boys have at it' get out of control Friday night decided to temper things a little bit?           

CARL EDWARDS: This track lends itself to clean racing. It's so fast. It's easy to drive a little bit sideways. You don't lose control as quickly. It's a fun racetrack.           

There might have been a little more restraint on the part of all the drivers just because of what happened. I can say for myself, I didn't really think about it that much during the night tonight. I think Phoenix will be the test. Everybody is going to be fighting for a place in line on the bottom. You'll see the test of how big a message NASCAR got across there at Phoenix.            

Q. Were you at all aware of Burton's fuel situation at the end?           

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I never cheered so hard for Jeff Burton in my life (smiling). If I could have loaned him some fuel, I would have.        

That's what they had to do. I thought that was a good move. They had to do that. I'm sure Bob thought about doing that, thought about us doing it. But as early as he ran out, I'm glad we didn't. I think we did the right thing to stay out there.          

I'm really proud of Bob. On a side note, I think he's been a really good leader throughout this whole thing. He's not let me lose my head, he's not flailed and tried for something crazy. He's a huge part, if not the most important part, of why we're leading the points right now.

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Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:20 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 9:18 pm

Speed Read: Texas

By Pete Pistone


AAA Texas 500 Recap

If the Chase wasn’t a two man heavyweight fight coming into Texas it certainly is leaving the Lone Star State.

Carl Edwards leads Tony Stewart by only three points after Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 and with just a pair of races remaining it promises to be a knock down, dragged out fight to Homestead.

Stewart has put together a Chase run of epic proportions, coming into the playoffs winless through the 26-race regular season and now with four victories in eight races.

He’s a man on a mission and spoke like one in victory lane at TMS.

“I told you guys that last week, nobody listens to me when I talk anymore,” a confident Stewart proclaimed. “No, I mean we are set on it man, this is just the way it is going to be.”

Stewart tied Jimmie Johnson’s record of four Chase wins in a single season with his performance on Sunday and seems ready to both break that mark as well as be the driver who ends the five-time champions’s title streak.

Well, if you can do simple math, you can figure out that we gained over half of it in one week and we have two weeks to go,” said Stewart, who whittled Edwards’ advantage to just three points. “It does not take much right now, it is one spot if a guy wins the race, we are doing exactly what we need to do, I am really confident right now.”

But so is Edwards.

Despite still not winning in the Chase, Edwards continues to do what wins NASCAR championships – be consistent.

His second place effort kept his average over the first eight races of the playoffs to just a hair over five and Edwards sees no reason why that won’t continue for the next two weeks.

Edwards doesn’t underestimate Stewart’s worthiness as a championship contender but has more than enough confidence in his ability and team as well.

“I think we're very fortunate to have led the points for as long as we have this season,” said Edwards, who scored his lone win this season in Las Vegas back in March.  “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.”



Carl Edwards

Stewart got the biggest headline with victory number four of the Chase but Edwards held serve and leaves Texas with the Chase point lead. It won’t bother Edwards one bit if he hangs on to score a career first Sprint Cup title if he goes winless over the final ten races of the season. To his credit he charged as hard as possible on Sunday only to come up one spot short of victory lane but still wound up doing what he needed to do..

Kasey Kahne

He cooled off a little in the last two weeks but Kahne was again impressive in Texas hanging near the front of the field and staying in contention for the win. There’s still nothing firm about Team Red Bull’s future but potential investors have to be taking notice of what Kahne and Kenny Francis continue to accomplish under very difficult circumstances.

Martin Truex Jr.

It wasn’t the best week PR-wise for Michael Waltrip Racing with the way the David Reutimann release went down and the announcement Mark Martin would join the organization next season for a limited schedule. Some question whether MWR can be a legitimate Chase contender next year and Truex Jr.’s performance Sunday was an example of what this team can accomplish.



Kyle Busch

NASCAR’s decision to park Busch for the remainder of the Texas weekend after his truck series race tangle with Ron Hornaday may turn out to be the turning point of Busch’s career. The ramifications of not earning any points in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race may be the least of Busch’s problems who still faces the wrath of team owner Joe Gibbs, sponsor M&M’s and perhaps more sanctions from NASCAR before this chapter of his tumultuous career comes to a close. 

Joey Logano

His run to end last season on a strong note is a faded memory. Logano had a miserable day Sunday that ended up with a thirty-seventh place finish. Between Busch’s issues and the way Logano and his teammate Denny Hamlin ran in Texas, you would not blame Joe Gibbs Racing for hoping these next two weeks go by as fast as possible to put a merciful end to 2011.

Brad Keselowski

The storybook season is just about finished after Keselowski had problems on pit road with Ryan Newman’s team that sent the No. 2 Dodge into Hamlin and leaving the Penske driver with a damaged mount. Keselowski was credited with a twenty-seventh place finish in Texas but is now reduced to the role of championship spoiler. 


(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

"I don't know, man. You're going to have to call this. I can't do it." – Tony Stewart to crew chief Darian Grubb regarding a two of four tire pit decision.

"We used to be fast. We need to figure something out." – Joey Logano

“Tell the 11 I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking…tell Ryan to wait til the next time he needs a break because he’s going around.” – Brad Keselowski after his pit road misadventures

"Your top is better than his bottom." – Jeff Gordon’s spotter regarding his line compared to Kasey Kahne

Race Rating

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 a three. There wasn’t any of the sideshow activities that marked last November’s visit to Texas and unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of side-by-side racing either. The first two thirds of the race were pretty sedate and pretty typical mile-and-a-half competition. Business did pick up in the final stages with Jeff Burton’s fuel strategy and the Stewart-Edwards battle on track and in the standings. But there wasn’t as much drama as many hoped for in what has been a pretty interesting Chase so far.


Down the Road

Talladega was considered the Chase wild card race that is until they decided to repave and reconfigure Phoenix International Raceway. All of the sudden the venerable one-mile desert track has been transformed into a brand new speedway that is wider and much faster than its predecessor. There was a two day test about a month ago but basically teams are going into the second to last race of the championship schedule without any idea how to prepare for next Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500. Now that’s what I’d call a real wild card.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 

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Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:17 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 8:19 pm
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