By admin | November 14, 2011
By Richard Allen
Months ago when NASCAR Chairman Brian France announced the sanctioning bodyâ€™s intention to restructure the points scoring system that had been in place for almost forty years of the sportâ€™s history. He stated his hope that the new system would create a so called â€˜Game 7â€™ type of playoff atmosphere. That is to say it was hoped that the drama would boil right down to the final race of the season with two or more drivers going into the last lap of competition before the Sprint Cup championship was decided.
This is exactly the scenario that will play out on Sunday at the Homestead- Miami Speedway in south Florida. Carl Edwards goes into that race with a slim three point margin over Tony Stewart. It will be a one on one contest for the sportâ€™s top prize as no other driver has a mathematical chance to earn the title.
No doubt, there will be plenty of attention cast on these two drivers, the championship and the sport as a whole over the next few days from every sort of media outlet. That was the plan from the outset.
Should the race play out without incident, Franceâ€™s dream of having the battle for the big trophy come down to the last lap will come true. So if that be the case, which driver has the best chance of coming out ahead?
Edwards seems to have the better record of the two contenders on this 1.5 mile track. In just seven starts, he has amassed two wins along with four top-5 and six top-10 results. And perhaps most importantly, he has a staggering average finish of 5.7 with his Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Stewart has competed in twelve events at Homestead- Miami Speedway. Like Edwards, he has two wins but it must be noted that his trips to victory lane here came when the track was configured with much less banking than its current layout.
This track has been modified on two separate occasions, most recently in 2003 when it was changed from a relatively flat shape to the progressively banked turns of today.
In all, Stewart has scored three top-5s and six top-10s here but his results have dropped off since the 2003 reconfiguration. His average finish while driving for both Joe Gibbs Racing and his current Stewart- Haas Racing is 12.4 over the course of his career. Edwards never raced in the Sprint Cup Series on the track under its old design.
However, even though Stewart may not have statistics on his side, he is the hotter of the two coming into the season finale. While Edwards has been remarkably consistent with no finish outside the top-11 since the Chase for the Championship began, Stewart has scored four wins over the most recent nine races.
Also consider that Stewart has championship winning experience at NASCARâ€™s highest level while Edwards has never won a Sprint Cup title. As a matter of fact, Stewart is the only driver to have won a championship under both the Chase and the pre-Chase systems.
All in all, Sundayâ€™s race at the Homestead- Miami Speedway has all the makings of a great event. Two drivers will be racing for the championship and each has something going in his favor leading into the finale. Had NASCAR written a script(and they pretty much did) this is how they would have had it play out.
In another championship note, Knoxvilleâ€™s Billy Ogle, Jr. and Alabamaâ€™s William Thomas will enter Saturday nightâ€™s Southern All Stars Series finale at the Cleveland(TN) Speedway in a virtual deadlock for that series title.
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