Tag:Tony Stewart
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 13, 2011 8:07 pm

Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart post Phoenix comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Tony, talk a little bit about this race here today, going into Homestead next week, three points behind in the championship.  It's between you and Carl.  All other drivers were officially eliminated today.  This is the third closest championship race going into the final race ever in the history of NASCAR.

TONY STEWART:  I'm not thinking of that.  I'm just thinking of the three points.

No, we had an awesome day.  We came up two spots shy.  I don't know how you could have asked for a better day really.  I mean, you figure we led the most laps, we were on the same pace we were last week just to have a perfect day.  Just fought as hard as we could all day.  Got out of balance the second to last stop and just lost that little bit that we needed to stay up there and keep Carl honest.

THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for questions.

Q.  The last couple weeks it literally has been you and Carl lap after lap.  What is that like for you?  Where does this rank as far as championship battles that you've been in?

TONY STEWART:  Well, it's fun.  He's keeping me honest, I'm keeping him honest.  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.

I'm still pumped up.  I want to go to Homestead tomorrow and start.  I want tomorrow to be Friday.  I'm pumped up, I'm excited about it and ready to go.

Q.  Where does this rank?

TONY STEWART:  I don't know.  Shoot, after 31 years of racing, I've been through so many championship battles.  We've had somewhere we never won a race, we were the third guy in the Silver Crown deal in '95, just mathematically in it, won it by two points the last race because the two guys in front of us, one blew up, one crashed out with 15 to go.

Under the circumstances I don't know.  It's hard to rank anything.  I'm more worried about where we rank after Sunday next week.

Q.  Tony, how do you handicap this?  Do either of you have an advantage?

TONY STEWART:  I don't think so.  I think we both have momentum.  We both had two really good weeks in a row.  I still think our mile-and-a-half program has come a long way this summer.  You look at how we ran at Chicago, Kentucky, Charlotte, Texas last week.  We've been good on the mile-and-a-half's.  I'm excited about it.

I like Homestead.  It's a place that we had a lot of success when it was flat.  We haven't got that win with it banked.  I like the way that track races right now.  I'm pretty excited about it.

I don't know where to handicap it.  Doesn't matter to me.  It's just about getting four more points than he does.  That's all that matters.

Q.  Do you see any Jedi mind tricks in the next couple days?

TONY STEWART:  I don't even see any Jedis.

Q.  Any verbal throw-downs?

TONY STEWART:  Does it matter?  It's still going to matter what happens on the racetrack.  I don't think it really matters right now.

Q.  What will you do this week?  Are you going to think about racing?  Try to get away from it?

TONY STEWART:  I've got a busy week.  Office Depot's headquarters are in Florida.  We've got a store appearance on Tuesday.  We're going down to Office Depot's campus in Boca Raton on Wednesday.  We're going to have a pretty busy week.  That's kind of what I like.  I'm better off being busy this week and going down to Florida early and getting ready.

THE MODERATOR:  We now welcome Carl Edwards who finished second in today's race.

Carl, give us an opening statement going into Homestead.  You're the only two left in contention.  I told Tony you're the third closest championship battle going into Homestead in NASCAR history.

CARL EDWARDS:  That's cool.  Couldn't ask for any more.  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.

Q.  After all of the prerace talk about how the track would race, what are your thoughts on how the race actually did unfold and how the track did?  Tony, could you comment on your ability to pass on the outside line on restarts.

TONY STEWART:  I mean, I think a bunch of the credit has to go to Randy LaJoie, Steve, Tim, the guys that came early this week, Kimmel.  I think if it were not for those guys, we wouldn't have had a two-groove racetrack today.

We have to thank those guys for getting that cleaned off, getting that base of rubber in there to where we could actually get up there and run the last couple days.

I still wouldn't have changed the shape the way they did.  I guess the computers are smarter than the drivers these days.  But I thought it was a good race.  I didn't get to see all of it.  From where we're at, we get to see the part we're involved in.

You did have the flexibility to move up and down.  Really that's all you can ask for.  I didn't think there was any dramas with it today.

Q.  Were you surprised you were able to pass on the outside on the restarts?

TONY STEWART:  Yes and no.  I mean, our car was a little loose on restarts, but it just seemed like we were actually better on the outside than we were on the inside.  Once the groove moved up, once they got rubber up there, I don't think it was a reason to be surprised.

The racetrack was wide enough you could run two-wide then.

Q.  Carl, could you comment on the track.

CARL EDWARDS:  I think what Tony said is absolutely correct.  Noffsinger, all those guys that came out here and spent that time, I think that helped a ton.  I think Bryan Sperber recognizing the issue we were potentially going to have and addressing it like that was huge.  It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.  It moved out, the groove did.  It got wider and wider.  I started to remember the old Phoenix.  I believe after it sits for a while, we come back here for the Subway 500 in the spring, even a year from now, I think it's going to be awesome.

I'm a convert.  I was ready to put a tombstone up and say good-bye to the place, but I think it's going to be good.

Q.  Carl, around lap 190 to 210, Tony was leading and you followed him.  I had the impression watching it you could go quicker.  Was it part of the strategy to follow him and study his driving style?  And what's the preparation for the last race?

CARL EDWARDS:  That's exactly what I was doing.  I was just hanging out back there, keeping his blood pressure up (laughter).

No, I was having fun.  I think our car was a tick faster right then.  I was watching what Tony was doing, searching around, doing what I could.  That was really fun.  That was neat to be able to race like that.  I think if it would have gone green from there, I know the chances of that are virtually nil, that would have been a fun race.  I think we would have battled it out.  You can't ask for anything more.

The way this has turned out for us to be running 1-2 racing hard like this the last two races is pretty cool.

Q.  Carl, given your success at Homestead, is there anyplace you'd rather have the season finale?

CARL EDWARDS:  There's some dirt tracks I grew up on that would be fine with me.

TONY STEWART:  I think we should do it then.  I'm all for changing.

CARL EDWARDS:  If we tie, we should go to the dirt tracks in Florida.

TONY STEWART:  I have one in Ohio we can use.

CARL EDWARDS:  I'm not doing that.

TONY STEWART:  Just saying.  I got one in Kentucky and Illinois we can use.  But that's all I got.

CARL EDWARDS:  That's why you got a busy week this week.

Yeah, Homestead is going to be a lot of fun.  I really enjoy racing there.  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.

Q.  Been a long time since the first and second in points have battled not only for the win but also in points.  Can you talk about how that feels going into Homestead.  Will there be any distractions?

TONY STEWART:  I don't know what distractions you would be talking about.  It is kind of fun to be in this scenario where you got guys that are three points apart.  Last week we were running first and second in the race.  Today we ran first and second.  It does make it fun.  We're both having to earn what we get.

No matter how it ends up next weekend, it's not going to have been given to you.  We're going to have to definitely earn it and fight for it, for sure.

Q.  We watch you come in and sit down next to each other after battling on the track.  What is it like to sit down and have to talk about your race and the Chase next to the guy you're battling?

TONY STEWART:  We've been doing this how long together?  I mean, it's no different.  Our demeanor isn't any different than we always are.  It's you guys and ESPN that loves to try to build that crap in between everybody.  The total drama network, for sure.  At least they're consistent about it.  Everybody at ESPN is consistent about it.

I don't see it being any different than normal.  If you want, we can eliminate the chair, if that will make you feel better.

CARL EDWARDS:  We're good.

TONY STEWART:  I think that answers your question, though, doesn't it?  Can you make sure everybody at ESPN understands that?  Thank you.

CARL EDWARDS:  Thanks, Tony (laughter).

Q.  Carl, last year Jimmie Johnson wouldn't come into this room when Denny was sitting here talking.  He sat outside, didn't want to hear it.  You did come in the room.  Tony has been in this championship battle before.  This is your first real one that you're going in as the leader.  How is your mindset right now?  How are your nerves?

CARL EDWARDS:  They're really good.  I'm fortunate.  There's a potential for me to get real nervous there at Homestead.  You never know what's going to happen.

I guess for me the thing that I've always tried to do, I've been fortunate enough to be able to do, is to go get in that racecar and go race.  There's no time for me that's more calm and I feel better than in that racecar.

I understand what all this stuff is.  I understand that we come up here and we answer questions and that's part of our sport.  But when it comes down to the racing, both of us know we've got to go race each other.

It is truly neat for me, like you said, this is my first time to come into this not just tied but to have a little bit of a points advantage going into the final race.  It's fun.  I'm just enjoying it.

It really truly doesn't matter what anyone says or what anyone's predictions are.  It gets done on the racetrack.  That's when we'll see.

Q.  What will you do this week?

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know what I'm going to do this week.  I don't have a very busy schedule.

Q.  Is that good or bad?

CARL EDWARDS:  That's good.  I can always find something to do.  I'll just go hang out and do what I normally do.  Spend a little time hopefully with the guys, talk a little bit with Bob, keep doing what we've done all year, go down there and enjoy it.

Q.  It's not coincidental that you are battling like this side-by-side.  How fun is it that you're battling for a championship?

TONY STEWART:  We saw what happened at Texas in Hornaday's championship run.  We saw what happened with Elliott Sadler's championship run.  I want to beat a guy because you did a better job, not because a circumstance happens that takes somebody out of it.  To race Carl for the lead in the races, for the points championship, that's going to mean something at the end of the year.  That's going to add to whoever wins this.

We both had to fight and fight and fight to get every point we can get up to this point.  I think it makes it more gratifying, the results, at the end of the day.  I feel like I'm working towards something and I feel like if we accomplish this, we have worked for it, not had it handed to us, not had it given to us.  That's all you can ask for as a driver, is to be in that position.

I think it's pretty honorable to be in that situation right now.  It's an awesome championship battle.  So I don't know how you could ask for more than what we got.

Q.  Carl, your thoughts on that?

CARL EDWARDS:  This is strange to say right now.  We're battling.  A zero sum game, one of us going to win, one of us is going to lose.  It's neat to me that Tony and the guys on the 14 are running so well, won so many races, performing on a high level.  It's going to mean more if we're able to beat them in this championship because of that, to beat Tony and those guys at their peak.

I know for us I can say completely truthfully this is the best Chase we've ever had.  We haven't gone out and got the trophies that we have in other Chases, but we've performed better than we ever have.  If they're beating us, they're beating us at our best, and I think that's pretty neat.

Q.  You've been a part of most all the Chases.  We're going to be saying this is one of the best ever.  How would you rate it from being on the inside?  Is this the best ever?

CARL EDWARDS:  It's the best points battle I've been a part of at this level, so it's fun for me.  I still don't understand why we're both running so good.  It's pretty neat.  Seems like subconsciously we're both able to dig down and our teams are able to give us what we need and everybody has been performing at a high level.  It's been neat that this battle has brought out the best in us.


Q.  Tony, you've talked a lot about driver etiquette this season.  In light of this points battle being close, certainly at the end of the season there are times where guys use Homestead as a way to get back.  Because this points race is so close, should drivers have a little bit more respect for this championship battle and put that stuff on hold?  How should that issue be addressed?  Obviously something could happen.

TONY STEWART:  It's a mile-and-a-half track.  Wherever I'm at, wherever he's at on the racetrack, as long as it doesn't happen around us, I don't care what they do around each other.  You can't control the other 41 guys in the race.  It's just you hope one of those 41 guys doesn't do something that impacts the championship.

I don't care what they do; just don't do it around us.

Q.  Carl, you have raced hard with each other, racing for a championship.  How much harder does it get?  Where does that line get between good, hard racing and crossing a line for a championship?

CARL EDWARDS:  Heck, I'm going to trip him when we walk out of this room (laughter).

No, I think we're just going to go race as hard as we can.  Both of us, we want to win this thing because we're the best out there next weekend.  That's all we can do is just go out there and race hard, race like we've raced for years.  There would be nothing better than coming down the last lap side-by-side racing for the win.  That would be really fun.

Q.  Jimmie's run came to an end today.  Winning five straight, do you think anybody will ever do that again?

TONY STEWART:  I haven't won two straight so I have no clue what five straight feels like.

I don't see anybody doing it again.  I think it's been absolutely remarkable to begin with for Jimmie to put five in a row together.  I know this year hasn't ended up the way he's wanted by any means.  I think he goes to Vegas and holds his head up high knowing what they've accomplished.  The fact that there's a real good possibility in the history of the sport for eternity that it could never happen again.

The competition gets tighter and tighter, tougher and tougher.  I just think it's amazing.  You understand why people didn't want him to win a sixth one.  At the same time, I've said it from day one, how do you knock down a guy that's going out and doing what he's supposed to do?  If we could trade places with him, we'd do it in a heartbeat, go out and win five in a row.

I think you've got to tip your hat to him.  I think that's something in NASCAR history that I would put my money on that it will never happen again.  I'm willing to put that bet with anybody in this room right now.  I just think it's remarkable at this level to do what he's done, what that team's done.  I know this year hasn't ended the way they wanted, but I still think they have to have a lot of pride in knowing they've done something in the history of the sport that most likely will never be duplicated.

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, I'd say if anyone is going to go out and do it again, it will be those guys.  They've got as good a shot as anyone to do it again next year.  I don't ever see them quitting and giving up.  It's very impressive.  I agree with what Tony said.

Q.  You have scored exactly the same amount of points in the Chase.  Kasey Kahne has scored the second most points.  Have you noticed him turn it up and come on the last nine weeks?

TONY STEWART:  I'll be honest, I haven't worried about it.  Haven't really thought about it and paid attention.  I don't know that anybody doesn't see that coming.  Kasey had bad luck like we did the first half of the year, just stupid stuff happening.  He's put together some really good runs here recently, run consistent.

Obviously if he was staying with that organization next year, I think we'd all be more worried.  It's kind of a question mark now that he's switching to a different organization.  Going to have to try to find their way over there.

But couldn't happen to a better guy.  I think Kasey is a guy that has fought through a lot of adversity this year to be able to rifle off these finishes.

CARL EDWARDS:  Kind of snuck up on me as well.  I didn't realize that statistic.  I feel we got to work with those guys really closely when he was driving a Ford.  He's a really, really impressive driver.  Those guys are going to be tough for a long time if they can find a groove, if he can stick with one team, have people rally around him, I think he's going to be really tough for a long time.

Q.  Carl, as precious as points are, was it at all deflating that you realized that Kasey had the race and you didn't?

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah.  But, you know, I felt with the strategy that we went with, we had to do it that way.  I think to pit early with him would leave the opportunity to be stuck a lap down, be mired back in the field.  I believe Bob did the right thing.  If we had a caution there at the end, I felt like our car was a little faster than his, we had a good shot at the win still.

Yeah, I would have loved to have won this race for sure.  That's what we all do this for.  But we still did our jobs.  I think we did a really good job today.  I'm not certain if we had the fastest car but we performed well with it and got a good result.


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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 8:56 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 9:11 pm

Tony Stewart, Darian Grubb post Texas comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Q.  You obviously had a great racecar.  There were a couple times during the race Tony hauled it up on his back a little bit.  Did you feel at times he was doing a little extra behind the wheel?    

DARIAN GRUBB:  He definitely did.  Just like Martinsville when we were getting ready to go a lap down.  He keeps fighting, finds that extra 3/10ths in the car.  We fell back.  You could tell the handling was going away a little bit.  The other guys were running up on him a little bit.  He got more speed out of the car and started moving forward after those guys fell off a little bit.  He did a great job adapting to what the car needed.            

Q.  Correct me if I'm wrong.  Have there been many instances this season where from start to finish of a race weekend you have been as strong as you were here?           

DARIAN GRUBB:  I think if you look back early in the season we kind of had some of those same stats going, we just didn't get the finishes like we needed at the end.  Las Vegas is one we qualified, stayed up front, dominated the race, had bad luck and finished second.  Kick myself now, because I wish we did two tires there at the end again to pull off that win instead of Carl.           

Those are points we knew we gave up early in the season.  It's good to have a weekend like this, give everybody that extra shot of confidence to know they can get it done.           

The setups we have are working.  Knowing we have the mile-and-a-half come up at Homestead, hopefully we'll take a lot of these things there and have that same speed.           

Q.  A question about momentum.  Four wins in eight weeks.  I may have this a little bit wrong, but when you substituted for Chad you had two wins with Jimmie.  Does momentum mean anything to you guys?           

DARIAN GRUBB:  Yeah, that was two wins in four weeks.  It's definitely momentum and just the attitude that you carry.  You come in with a little bit more of a pep in your step and you're bouncing around because you know you can get it done.           

Having that extra confidence means a lot, being able to go in, keep your head up, keep working on everything that you think you need to work on, work through practice plans like you think you need to.  When you unload fast, you can afford to work on those things like we did this weekend.            

Q.  You were around the 99 it seemed like in practice and everything.  Talk about the weekend with them.  Was it fun?  What was it like?

DARIAN GRUBB:  It's definitely fun.  It's one of those things where we go out there and have a good time with it.  We do the same job week in and week out regardless of what's going on around us.  When everything happened with the 18 car, it seemed like all the media disappeared away from us.  Every camera was in our stall for the first practice, but after that everybody kind of disappeared.  Bob and I were joking, I'm going to get up in your face and say, What are you having for dinner tonight?          

It's fun.  We have fun with it.  We're all there to get the job done.  We're not there to do the pomp and circumstance and all these other things.  We want to do what we've got to do to make fast racecars.            

Q.  It seems like through the first 26 races of the regular season, it was a struggle.  Once the Chase starts it's like this light bulb moment went off.  Was there one indeed once the Chase started?           

DARIAN GRUBB:  I really don't think so.  We had strong cars, we just didn't get the finishes.  We got in a little bit of a slump in the middle of the summer where it seemed like anything we did didn't go right.  We would have a pit call, it would bite us, next week try to do it again.  Worked one week, wouldn't work the next.          

Just as the Chase started, we got the momentum on our side with the first two wins.  Keep it rolling now.  It's been better ever since.            

Q.  Were you confident all the way there was no way Burton could make it to the finish?           

DARIAN GRUBB:  Pretty confident.  Just the lap they pitted on, we knew they were going to have a hard time stretching it that far.  At that point we were also gaining on them a second a lap.  It was going to pretty much add up we were going to catch them there with one or two to go.  We were trying to get everything we could get.            

Q.  When Burton went into the lead and Tony lost a couple of positions after the last fuel stop, you didn't get panicked?  What did you tell Tony over the radio?           

DARIAN GRUBB:  No, we were pretty confident that they couldn't make it from that early.  If they did, the speed was going to have to be so slow.  We thought we could catch them anyway.  We told him to worry about the 99 that was behind him.  Hopefully it was going to work out.  If nothing else, it was going to be a great points day for us and be ahead of Carl.  We just have to keep fighting for all those points.           

Q.  I know the 99 car had a right front tire problem early on.  Nobody likes right front tire problems.  What were you thinking?  Did you see anything at all?           

DARIAN GRUBB:  We had the same issues.  Pretty much everybody in the garage that was running those speeds did.  The tire is a good tire.  That's the limit of what you can do.  I'm sure Goodyear is going to come back with something a little bit different.  If not, the race is even more exciting with that.  The way the tires fall off the fuel windows were getting shorted anyway.  We had to make sure we take care of it.  If you got really tight, you had to be even more careful.            

Q.  Going into Phoenix, do you look forward to something like that, where you don't have a whole lot of notes, it's going to be more I don't want to say seat of your pants?           

DARIAN GRUBB:  We really do because it's something where we did the tire test there, the open test.  We have four full days of data that we've been digging through for a month and a half.  We're looking forward to going there and seeing if everything we learned while we were there still applies.           

The track is going to change while we're there with all the practice we have.  We have to be smart how we adapt to those changes.  Hopefully we're going to have that speed.           

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  Congratulations.           

The man next to you doesn't need any introduction, the winner of tonight's race, Tony Stewart.  It's his second career win at Texas Motor Speedway and fourth in the Chase.  He's three points back of leader Carl Edwards heading into the final two races.           

Tony, talk about your run tonight.           

TONY STEWART:  I think it was all right (smiling).  It was fair.  We probably could have done a better job.          

I don't know what we could have done any different.  We had a good car to start with and the good thing was it was close enough to where Darian was fine tuning all day.  This is a race where the conditions change a bunch from the beginning of the day to the end.  I was real proud we were able to adapt all day long.           

I don't know that we ever got out of the top five there the whole race.  Seemed like we just kind of stayed there, stayed in the top three or four the whole day.  Restarts were key obviously.  But we got a really good restart that last one, had the lead coming into the pit stop.  Our guys did an awesome job in the pits, got us out ahead of him.  That was really the difference, was just being able to get that track position and be able to run our pace versus trying to make something happen to catch him.           

THE MODERATOR:  We'll take questions for Tony.            

Q.  Coming into this weekend, I think Carl felt like advantage them here at Texas.  You come out and you do this.  How big of a message is it to them that maybe what they thought was reality isn't reality?           

TONY STEWART:  We tried to tell them that last week, so...  It is what it is.  I mean, I still stand firm that we're not counting on them to make mistakes.  We're controlling our destiny.  Today is a perfect example of that.  We're worried about what we're doing.  We're not worried about what they're doing.  We raced our race today.  We didn't do anything worrying about what they were doing or how they were doing things.  We just ran our race.  That's what we intend to do the next two weeks.           

It's theirs to lose now.  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          

Q.  Just seems like this championship Chase of yours, you're having a lot of fun doing it.  Has this been the most fun of a championship run you've had?          

TONY STEWART:  I think so.  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.  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.            

Q.  Tony, I know you're not worried about the 99 and all that.  But how cool was it to battle it out with him tonight?           

TONY STEWART:  It shows what this Chase is going to be about.  It's a good battle right now.  I mean, this was a good race today.  We never really got far away from each other.  At the end it was down to the two of us.           

I don't know if you're Brian France right now, I would say he's giddy.  If not, he should be, because this is the perfect scenario.  It's the perfect storm, so to speak, going into these last two weeks.  That's what you want.  This is about as exciting as it gets, to have two guys that are down to three points with two weeks ago.            

Q.  He drew a little bit on your picture out there.           

TONY STEWART:  I saw that.  The bad thing is I look really bad to start with.  He actually made me look a little better (smiling).  I think he was actually a little too infatuated with me to be drawing on me.  Kind of scares me he was so concerned about it.            

Q.  Tony, you talked about this a little bit, but you've won a championship before, two of them.  Carl has been in the Chase but has not won a title.  How much of an advantage, if any at all, is that for your group?  How might it be an advantage?           

TONY STEWART:  It's definitely an advantage.  But I'm not going to tell you why 'cause that's what I'm going to take to the next two weeks with me.  We win this thing, I'll tell you what the advantage is and why.  But there's an advantage.            

Q.  Tony, this is the second straight week where on restarts you were so strong coming from the outside, not in the preferred line.  How gratifying is that?          

TONY STEWART:  Yeah, I mean, it's very gratifying.  I thought we were really strong all day on restarts.  I mean, we had the one restart where we took off third there.  We were two-wide with Matt Kenseth going into one for the lead.  We're aggressive right now.  It's like I said, I'm taking charge and trying to control my own destiny.  I think the restarts today showed what our intentions are and what we're about for these next two weeks.            

Q.  Does it feel odd at all winning four races in the Chase and still being the chaser and not the guy being chased?           

TONY STEWART:  Not if you look at how bad a race we had at Dover.  We had to win four races to make up that deficit of what we got ourselves into at the Dover race.           

I'm going to be real disappointed if people are trying to make a story out of a guy that's got four wins isn't leading the points.  It's about 10 weeks.  You got to be good for 10 weeks.  You can't just sit there and say, You can throw it all away to try to win a race and get there.           

We have had to have those four wins to make up for Kansas that we missed an opportunity there, Dover that we just were bad.  We've had to rebound from that.  The good news is our four wins have carried us within three points of the lead.  So I'm proud that we've been able to fight our way back up to it.            

Q.  Tony, can you remember the last time you had such a strong weekend from start to finish?  You were very confident coming here.  You must have felt some reinforcement getting out on the track Friday and being fast in practice and qualifying well.          

TONY STEWART:  We joke around about the Matt Kenseth syndrome.  If he qualifies well, you know he's going to be good in the race.  That was proved today.  He qualified well and he was a factor.  We're kind of in that same boat.  We're not known for qualifying.  For us to qualify fifth, start that far forward, you got a sense it's going to be a decent weekend.           

The thing that we saw on the lap speeds in practice, we didn't have that raw speed at the front of a run, but it seemed like after 10 laps we matched those guys that did have the raw speed.  It seemed like by lap 15 it was kind of going the other way.           

You know that this race most likely is going to be decided in a relatively long run most of the time.  The good thing is it did today.  Other than the traffic we struggled with at the end, we had a really good long run car and that's what you need.            

Q.  Four wins in eight weeks in any Cup season is spectacular.  Are you a believer in momentum?           

TONY STEWART:  It would be hard to not believe in it right now, to be honest.  But still when we get to Phoenix next week, what happened this week and last week are over, and you still got to start that weekend from scratch.           

I think our group is really good at that.  But I think where the momentum carries isn't when you start on Friday, it's tonight through Thursday night.  It's the demeanor of the guys, the guys at the shop, how excited they are, knowing these guys are pumped up about what we got going on.  When you got them working on your racecar, you want them pumped up and excited about how things are going.           

But it's back to business on Friday.  The good thing at the test there, like Darian mentioned, we were really fast at the test.  I'm looking forward to getting there.            

Q.  Last week you told Carl he better worry.  He was a little more subdued in here today than last week.  Any more words of wisdom for Carl Edwards?           

TONY STEWART:  I'm pretty sure what we did on the racetrack said everything we needed to tell him today.  I mean, I don't know how you top that.  He knows.  Trust me, he knows.  If he's out there drawing on me, he knows.           

The fun thing is I don't feel like I have to say anything.  I feel like I already got it done.            

Q.  Clean, professional race today.  Is that a function of the track or some guys more sobering reality this week?  When you get that kind of race for you, is it a pleasure?           

TONY STEWART:  We're not on a half mile anymore.  You're ripping around here, like Darian mentioned.  The speeds we were running today, unbelievable how fast we run here at Texas.  You're not going to get guys doing what they did last week.  Guys don't have to get in that position of trying to take chances and put themselves in bad positions to get to the bottom of the racetrack like they had to do last week.           

I think you kind of throw last week out of the equation.  That's not normal for this series.  You only see it really twice a year at Martinsville.  But that is what makes Martinsville exciting.  At the same time that's why I'm glad we don't run 10 weeks at Martinsville to decide the championship because it would get ugly.           

Yeah, it is nice to come here and know you're not going to have to worry about that.  Guys that had dramas last week had clean races today.  It just shows that a lot of it's a product of how fast we're running here.  Guys have a lot more respect for each other here.           

Q.  Carl said earlier he doesn't want to count anybody out who is still mathematically alive no matter how far they are.  Realistically, he's the guy you're worried about.           

TONY STEWART:  I'm not worried about anybody.  I'm worried about what we're doing, and that's it.  I mean, make no mistakes, understand this when you leave here, for the next two weeks, I don't care what he does.  I didn't care what he did last week.  I didn't care what he did this week.  I was worried about the 14 car and that's all.  That's why we had the result we had today.  We're not worrying about somebody else or something else.          

You're crazy, the way the race went last week, guys having engine problems, you never can count anybody out of the equation.  But I'm one of those guys, I believe there's 35% of the things that happen on a race weekend that we can control and 65% that we can't.  All I care about is that 35% that we can control.  That's all we're going to focus on and worry about.  The rest of it we're not going to worry about what they're doing.           

When you got two weekends in a row like we've had, we don't have to do anything different.  We just got to keep doing what we've been doing, and that's worrying about our own racecar.  Everybody else has to worry about what we're doing, why and how.            

Q.  With going into Phoenix and Homestead the next two weeks, it's been a while since you won at either of those tracks.  Do you think you can get back to Victory Lane at either place?         

TONY STEWART:  Been a while since I won here, but we're here tonight, aren't we?  I don't know how you count us out.  Been a long time since we won at Martinsville and here.  We've done it two weeks in a row.  Yeah, if I ever had confidence that we can do it, yeah, I feel that we can.

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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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