By admin | November 3, 2011
By Richard Allen
The best possible late season points battle scenario for NASCAR would be for the highly popular Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to be one of the drivers in the midst of the contest against pretty much any other driver. Since that is not the case, a very good alternative for the sanctioning body has come to fruition with the two big personalities of Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart vying for the Sprint Cup championship with only three races remaining in the 2011 season.
Junior made the Chase for the Championship for the first time since 2008 after turning in a relatively consistent, although not spectacular, first twenty-six races of the season. Had he and his Hendrick Motorsports crew been able to find some degree of magic over the last ten races there would be little need for promotion as the races wound down. No doubt, ‘Junior Nation’ would have been out in full force to support their hero.
However, that was not the case as Junior fell out of contention fairly quickly.
But of all the other possibilities, the one that is playing out is one that could serve NASCAR well in terms of providing publicity for the sport. With Jimmie Johnson having won five consecutive titles, many fans are eager for a new script to be written and one involving two of the sport’s biggest stars in a battle for supremacy will suffice.
Neither of these two have ever been shy about voicing an opinion nor have they ever backed away from rivalry or confrontation. After his win on Sunday in Martinsville, Stewart immediately went to work on his chief competitor. “Carl Edwards had better be real worried. That’s all I’ve got to say,” Stewart declared. “He’s not going to sleep for the next three weeks.”
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage wasted little time in playing upon the challenge by Stewart against the points leader and immediately used the verbal jab to promote the upcoming race at his track.
The always media savvy and image conscious Edwards vs. the often gruff and evasive Stewart sets up a match of two opposites that seem like movie characters instead of reality. Both drivers have significant followings, they represent two completely different styles, they represent two separate manufacturers and two very different ownership groups. It’s a perfect match… or mismatch.
And more, it would be easy to imagine that these two may not like each other all that much either. A confrontation between Edwards and Stewart is not so far fetched at all.
Of course there are other drivers still with a chance to win the Sprint Cup championship. Kevin Harvick and Bead Keselowski are well within striking distance. Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson could be back in the hunt with a little luck. But as of now, it’s Edwards and Stewart leading the way and looking as if they will settle the issue among themselves.
The best case scenario for NASCAR this late in any season would be Dale Earnhardt, Jr. vs. anyone else. Since that is not happening, Edwards, who is clean cut but not afraid to be confrontational, vs. the not so clean cut and seemingly always confrontational Stewart is a good alternative.
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