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Edwards doesn't want to settle for second again

In any other year, Carl Edwards probably would have been a NASCAR champion.

He won nine Sprint Cup races, including three of the final four in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and had eight top-five finishes in the 10-race Chase.

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One problem: Jimmie Johnson was even better, forcing Edwards to settle for second place.

"If we run like that every year, we're going to win a lot of championships," Edwards said.

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History bears him out. Only one current driver, four-time series champ Jeff Gordon in 1996, has won nine or more races in a season and failed to win the title.

Edwards doesn't expect it to happen again, at least not to him. And many agree, which is why Edwards enters today's season-opening Daytona 500 as the trendy pick to dethrone three-time defending champ Johnson.

"It doesn't really put any pressure on me that people are picking me and picking us to win the championship," Edwards said. "I've kind of tried not to pay any attention to that. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Once I'm in that racecar, it's all or nothing, so hopefully that works out, and this doesn't change anything, I don't think."

A win today would be a strong indication Edwards is ready to supplant Johnson. He finished second there in July but has otherwise been an afterthought at NASCAR's restrictor-plate races, Daytona and Talladega.

Edwards believes this year can be different.

"I want to win that championship," he said. "I want to know what it feels like. Winning nine races and having a great year and all that is fine, but I'd take a championship with no wins rather than another nine-win season because I really want to accomplish that goal."

Nationwide: : In five hours, Tony Stewart went from brooding over his battered Daytona 500 car to celebrating a win in the season-opening Camping World 300.

The two-time Cup champion, who left Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of last season to start Stewart-Haas Racing, held off a last-lap challenge from Kyle Busch to win at Daytona International Speedway.

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Stewart passed 23 cars in 11 laps to get back into contention after pitting with 30 laps to go in the 120-lap race, then hung on to the lead. Edwards finished second, followed by Clint Bowyer and Busch.

Stewart lost his Daytona 500 car and that of teammate Ryan Newman after Newman blew a tire in the final practice for the 500 and crashed into Stewart.

Stewart was set to start fifth today. Now, he and Newman must switch to backup cars and start from the rear of the 43-car field.

The wreck prompted the drivers to criticize Goodyear for bringing a faulty tire to Daytona for a second consecutive year.

today's race

Site: Daytona Beach, Fla.

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Track: Daytona International Speedway (tri-oval, 2 1/2 miles, 31 degrees banking in turns).

Race distance: 500 miles, 200 laps.

TV: 2 p.m., chs. 45, 5


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