Three points...two drivers...one race.
Forty-three stock cars will line up on the starting grid for Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 10th and final race in the NASCAR Chase for the Cup, but the outcome will only matter to two drivers and two race teams.
For the first time in six years, someone other than Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will take home the Sprint Cup championship trophy. Either Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart will claim victory on Sunday. Edwards, who drives the No. 99 Aflac Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, holds a narrow three-point lead, the equivalent of three spots on the race track, over Stewart heading into NASCAR's season finale. The script couldn't get any better for an exciting finish to another year of racing in NASCAR premier series.
If the Chase for the Cup is NASCAR's equivalent of Major League Baseball's World Series, then Sunday's race at Homestead-Miami is the seventh and deciding game. If Edwards wins the race, he wins the championship and his first Sprint Cup title. If Stewart finishes first or more than a few positions ahead of Edwards and the No. 99 car, the championship will be his, after failing to win one race during the regular season. Between them, Stewart and Edwards had only one win total in the first 26 Cup races leading up to the Chase.
The two drivers represent polar opposites on a variety of fronts, starting with their age. Edwards, who hails from the Kansas City area, growing up in Columbia, Mo., is eight years junior to the 40-year-old Stewart. Edwards has less than half the number of Sprint Cup Series wins as Stewart (19 to 43) and two less Cup championships (zero to two). Kansas City Star writer Randy Covitz, who covers auto racing, characterized the racing matchup this way: "In Stewart vs. Edwards, it's more than Chevy vs. Ford. It's Cave Man vs. Cover Boy. Mr. Mean vs. Mr. Clean."
Stewart failed to win a single Cup race this year before the Chase, but he has taken the checkered flag for Stewart-Haas Racing in four of the nine Chase races thus far. This is the same Tony Stewart who was one of the final qualifiers for this season's Chase and gave himself little to no chance nine weeks ago of coming out on top of the other 11 qualifiers and recording his third Cup championship.
Since winning for the third time in the seventh round of this year's Chase at Martinsville, Stewart has been doing his best to get in Edwards' head. "He better be worried." Stewart said of the points-leader Edwards at that time.
"He's (Stewart) got the talking part figured out," Edwards said at the press conference Thursday featuring the two title contenders. "Problem is, you haven't led the points yet this year, have you?"
Which brought the following response from Stewart: "They say there's talkers and doers. I've done this twice. You can come visit my trophy in Vegas."
Edwards would like nothing better than to duplicate what he did a year ago at Homestead-Miami in winning the final Chase race. Stewart has had his moments at the Miami race track, as well. He has won twice there, finished in the top five three other times and has posted an average finish of 12.4 in 12 races at the South Florida venue.
"The biggest thing Carl has going for him is this (Homestead-Miami) is a great race track for him," said Kevin Harvick, who also is competing in this year's Chase and is third in the points standings, but was eliminated along with seven others after last week's race at Phoenix International Raceway. "Tony's biggest advantage is he's just so confident. They (the Stewart-Haas team) have that winning momentum, and Carl has a race track that they've had a lot of success at."
By night time Sunday, we'll have a winner. It's Edwards' to lose, but will Stewart have enough in the tank to finish the job? We'll soon have the answer.
For more information: