Taking The Chase To The “Lone Star State”
FORT WORTH (Sports Network) – With seven races down and three to go in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, it’s looking like it will be a two-man battle for the championship in NASCAR’s premier series.
Tony Stewart’s win coupled with a ninth-place finish for Carl Edwards last Sunday at Martinsville Speedway allowed Stewart to trim Edwards’ points lead to just eight.
Stewart has hyped up the title fight by telling Edwards “he better be worried” and “he is not going to have an easy three weeks.”
Edwards response? “We’ll see what happens at Texas.”
It’s no holds barred between the two, and Texas Motor Speedway, the site of the next Chase race this Sunday, is loving every minute of it.
Texas has been an up and down track for Edwards. Even though Edwards leads all drivers with three wins at this track, his average finish here is 16.5.
“You never know how you’re going to run, but I feel good going there,” Edwards said. “I love that place. I love everything about Texas, from [track president] Eddie Gossage, down to the fans, the way they make everything such a big event.”
Edwards finished 39th in the 2009 fall race at Texas. He then placed 19th and 33rd in the two races at this track last year before improving his performance here with a third-place run in April.
Stewart’s average finish at Texas is 13.2. He won the fall race here in 2006.
After winning the first two Chase races — Chicagoland and New Hampshire — Stewart lost his momentum in the playoffs by finishing 25th at Dover and then 15th at Kansas. He had dropped to seventh in the point standings. But Stewart has bounced back nicely since then, scoring three straight top-10 finishes, including the win at Martinsville.
“I don’t know anybody that doesn’t enjoy being in the middle of it with three weeks to go; it’s a great feeling,” Stewart said. “To be in a position that we’re in right now, sitting here knowing that we’re right in the middle of this thing with three weeks to go, it is obviously a great feeling and great position to be in. We just got to go out and keep doing what we’re doing here.”
Edwards has finished no worse than 11th in this year’s Chase so far.
“I feel like we made it through the first seven races of the Chase better than we expected,” he said. “Now we just go to these last three races and go for broke.”
None of the 12 drivers in the Chase field have been mathematically eliminated from the championship yet. Heading into Texas, 89 points separate Edwards from 12th-place Ryan Newman.
Kevin Harvick is currently 21 points out of the lead, while Brad Keselowski trails by 27 markers.
Matt Kenseth is hoping to rebound in the Chase after a disappointing finish at Martinsville. Kenseth entered the Martinsville race 14 points behind Edwards, but after his 31st-place run there, he has fallen 36 points in back of his Roush Fenway Racing teammate.
Kenseth has performed well at Texas lately. He finished second here one year ago and then followed up with a win in this year’s spring race.
“I probably have more confidence going into Texas because, historically, it’s been one of our best tracks,” he said. “Past success doesn’t guarantee anything for future success, but we certainly perform well there.”
Jimmie Johnson is now 43 points behind Edwards, as his hopes of a record- extending sixth straight series championship are fading away.
“The window is getting smaller and smaller as the weeks go by, so I’m going out for maximum points, trying to win races and get trophies,” Johnson said. “It’s out of my control where things are at this point. It’s up to other guys to have major mistakes in these next three events to let us back in.”
Forty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the AAA Texas 500.
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