Edge to Edwards
This is truly a tossup, but give Carl Edwards the edge as the Chase concludes Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
For starters, Edwards drives for Roush Fenway Racing, and that Ford team has won six of the last seven races at the 1.5-mile Homestead oval. Edwards himself has won two of the last three.
Stewart also is strong on 1.5-mile tracks and has won four of the nine Chase races this year. But Sunday's race at Phoenix was telling. Stewart charged to the lead in his Chevrolet, but Edwards patiently stayed close behind until taking the lead himself.
If it's that close at Homestead, Edwards' three-point lead heading into the race will be the difference.
Carl Edwards will be doing a back flip Sunday in celebration of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
After 35 races, it comes down to one event, and Edwards, with two victories and only one finish worse than eighth, is simply better at Homestead than Tony Stewart.
More interesting is how NASCAR's declaration of putting a premium on winning thanks to a new, simplified points system hardly comes into play. Edwards has one victory this year. Stewart didn't win in the first 26 races before the Chase, then has won four Chase races yet trails by three points.
An Edwards championship will show that no matter the tweaks, consistency is still the most important factor.
Three points. One race. Who do you like?
Give me Carl Edwards over Tony Stewart by a smidge.
Do the math: Stewart hasn't won at Homestead since 2000.
Roush Fenway Racing drivers have won six of the seven Chase races held at Homestead. That includes victories for Edwards in 2008 and 2010.
Still, it's going to be a doozy. Stewart has won two of the four races at intermediate tracks this season, so he should be good to go at another intermediate stop. He has the confidence and cockiness to pull it off.
But Edwards is no Denny Hamlin. He won't wilt under pressure. All he has to do is stay marginally ahead of Stewart on Sunday, and he has this thing.
Stewart has experience
Entering NASCAR's final regular-season race, Tony Stewart said he didn't much care if he made the Chase playoffs. In Stewart's bottom-line world, his team wasn't good enough to compete for the championship. And the beauty of Stewart is, he wasn't playing coy.
Stewart's handicapping wasn't far-fetched. He was winless during the regular season, threatening his 12-year streak with at least one checkered flag. Then the Chase began. Stewart won the first race. And the second, plus two more to emerge as the sole challenger to points leader Carl Edwards entering Sunday's finale.
Edwards never has won a title; Stewart did in 2002 and '05. Here's guessing that experience pays off with a third.