Carl Edwards is driven, determined, and ready to race. If he wanted to send a message to the only other man who has a chance at winning the championship, he has definitely started off in the right direction. Running the fastest laps in second practice, and setting the fastest lap during qualifying and taking the pole with an average speed of 175.467 mph Edwards plans on leading the field to the green, and hops to stay there for the checkered.
“Awesome, guys, that is the way to come and perform!” Edwards radioed to his crew after his qualifying laps. “Good work today.”
“It was hard to tell from practice how big a battle you’re going to have,” Edwards said. “Our car was balanced well, qualifying trim was balanced well, so no hiccups yet, so that’s nice.”
It’s easy to see how a run like that has built up his confidence but Edwards still has a reserved outlook on today’s race.
“We still have to go out and win the race,” Edwards said. “I know how tough those guys can be, so I’m not counting anything yet. We’re just gonna keep our heads down and work hard and go get the best we can.
“If anything, this is just good for our morale and for everybody to go sleep easy tonight and know we’re gonna have a good day on pit road, know we’ll hopefully be able to run out front and not get caught up in anything. But, truly, I understand that we still have to go run this race, and anything can happen.”
“This is going really well so far, and hopefully this helps us all race,” Edwards said. “We didn’t need to qualify poorly here, [get] a poor pit stall, have some little thorn in our side the whole race. So hopefully this helps us through the whole event.”
Edwards had a tire issue at the beginning of the second practice round, cutting the tire as he headed out for his first run. This led to him making fewer laps than Stewart, but didn’t slow him down on the track.
“We ran the first practice completely in race trim, and we felt that was the best strategy for us,” Edwards said. “We actually had a cut in the right rear tire after the first run in the second practice. So we had two sets of sticker [new] tires, which we would normally run three or four runs total — a couple on the first set and one final sticker run — but once we looked at that tire, we realized we couldn’t use it again.
“In a way, it probably helped us from tuning the [car] out of contention.”
Stewart however tells us not to etch that trophy with Edwards name on it just yet.
“You [media] need to look at the time sheets — [Edwards] put up a fast lap,” Stewart said. “His lap times fell off pretty hard, in the one long run that he did. And looking at that, that’s why I’m still really confident that what we did [Saturday] was the right thing. Our times don’t fall off as hard as his did.
“Whether they’ve got something figured out for [Sunday] that they didn’t show — who knows? After looking at the time sheet I felt a lot better about what I was seeing. But to look at that sheet it doesn’t tell the story of the [final] session [because] I felt like the two best cars were [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] and [Kasey Kahne]. They were 22nd and 26th and we were sitting there 24th.
“The guys I think we’re going to watch for the race win [Sunday] are the guys that were back there in the same general vicinity where I was at, looking at the times that were consistently the best in that second session. I don’t think looking at the time sheets tell the accurate story of what’s coming up [Sunday].”
“We didn’t have a pole-winning car today, but our No. 14 Chevrolet is pretty good in race trim,” said Stewart, who ran 52 laps in Saturday’s second practice session, focusing on race runs.
“I’ve won 13 poles in 13 years, and I’ve won  races now, proving that you don’t have to do it from the pole, for sure,” Stewart said. “It’s definitely a luxury for him at this point, but don’t start etching his name on the trophy yet.”
So how are the sports analysts playing this one out?
Stewart seemed to have the edge coming into Phoenix, with his previous experience as a championship winner, and the momentum he has gained by winning 4 out of the last 9 races since the beginning of the chase.
Looking at the all time stats for Miami Homestead between these two drivers gives us an interesting feel for how this may play out. 6 Top-10 finishes at Homestead for both Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart. The similarities pretty much end there, however: Edwards has six consecutive top-10s, the longest current streak; he has two wins during that span. Stewart only has two top-10s in the past six races; he also had his two worst finishes during that span.
However as we look at the stats for Homestead Miami the edge seems to shift to Edwards. Since the reconfiguration of this track Edwards earned his 2 wins and 441 laps led, and in 3 of the races in that time span he also led the moist laps.
And even more intriguing is the fact that no driver has won Homestead and the championship in the same year. Jimmie Johnson finished second last year at HMS. The last driver to win the championship at the final race was Jeff Gordon, but that was in Atlanta in 1998.
Most of the media that I listen to and give weight to their comments, are putting Carl Edwards on top for the final race…. but we all know that in NASCAR, it’s not over ’till the checkered flag is waving.
Stewart has commented that he would “wreck his own mother to win a National Championship”, so how will Edwards deal with that type of aggression is it comes down to it?
“Now that I know how he feels about it, I guess that’s pretty easy for me to decide,” Edwards said. “I think it was neat to hear Tony talk about it. It is a national championship. This is a huge deal. This is a big race.”
“Let me put it this way: I would only do it if I thought the other guys would do it to me. That’s that.”
Here is a list of all the possible outcomes could play out, thanks to the researchers at NASCAR.com.
|• If Edwards finishes ahead of Stewart, Edwards win the championship.|
|• If Stewart wins the race, he wins the championship.|
|• If Stewart ties Edwards, Stewart wins the championship.|
|• If Edwards leads a lap, Stewart needs to finish four spots ahead of him if Stewart doesn’t lead a lap.|
|• If Edwards leads the most laps, Stewart needs to finish five spots ahead of him if Stewart doesn’t lead a lap.|
|• If Stewart leads a lap, he needs to finish two spots ahead of Edwards if Edwards doesn’t lead a lap.|
|• If Stewart leads the most laps, he needs to finish one spot ahead of Edwards if Edwards doesn’t lead a lap.|
|• If both Stewart and Edwards lead a lap, Stewart needs to finish three spots ahead of Edwards.|
|• If both Stewart and Edwards lead the most laps, Stewart needs to finish three spots ahead of Edwards.|
|• If Stewart leads the most laps and Edwards leads a lap, Stewart needs to finish two spots ahead of Edwards.|
|• If neither Edwards or Stewart lead a lap, Stewart must finish three spots ahead of Edwards.|