Tony Stewart was asked as he stood in the Victory Lane at Martinsville if he thought that Carl Edwards was worried about his chance snow.Ã‚Â Stewart’s answer, with a huge smile on his face was “He’d better be worried. That’s all I can say. He’s not going to have an easy three weeks.”Ã‚Â And when we take a look at how Stewart and his teams from past season have run, he may be on to something.Ã‚Â Tony Stewart is one of the streakiest (is that really a word?) drivers in the NASCAR garage.Ã‚Â Once he gets on a roll he is very hard to stop.Ã‚Â This years chase has had a few bumps in the road for Stewart so far, but he is the only chaser to have more than one win since the chase began, having now racked up 3 marks in the W column since Chicagoland.
But what does the points leader Carl Edwards have to say about all this trash talk?
“He’s wound up — he won the race,” Edwards said. “We’ll see what happens at Texas. I feel like we’re going to go there and we’re going to have as good a shot to win as anyone. This track [Martinsville] has been really, really tough for me.”
“Tony and those guys have obviously won three Chase races. When I sat in here on Friday (in Martinsville), I told you guys that I thought he was one of the guys that could win this race and be a guy that you have to beat for the championship, and he’s proven that. We’ll have fun. We’ll go race hard. They’re going to have to race us, too. I’m excited about the next three races.”
Stewart’s response? “I don’t care what he says. We’re going to go after him for the next three weeks.”
Edwards simply dismisses such trash talk.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m fine with it because I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t participate,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“My job is to go out here and do the best I can, win the championship. I just got done talking to Tony. We joked around about it a little bit.”
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is kind of fun. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fun to go back and forth, give each other a hard time. At the end of the day, though, I think Tony and myself would both be foolish if we thought all we had to worry about was one another.”
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve still got three or four guys behind us that are just as dangerous, maybe even more, in this championship.Ã¢â‚¬Â
So who could these 3 or 4 other guys be?Ã‚Â Well lets take a look at the standings and find out.Ã‚Â Stewart sits only 8 points behind Edwards and is the odds on favorite to knock Edwards from teh top spot and spoil his chances at a championship, that’s the obvious.Ã‚Â When we look at 3rd place back the field may still have a surprise or two lurking in the wings.
Sitting in third place in the points right now, 21 points behind the leader,Ã‚Â we have Kevin Harvick, Mr. “Where did he come from”.Ã‚Â This year Harvick has proven that hs is more than able to come from no where and take the lead at the end of the race.Ã‚Â Can he capitalize on that and do the same in the points race?Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â He was close at the end of last season coming on strong through the last 5 races and making it a 3 way chase between himself, Hamlin and eventual winner and 5 time champion Jimmie Johnson.Ã‚Â Harvick knows how to deal with the pressure of being up at the top this late in the season and has as good a shot as anyone to get there without making too many mistakes that could cost him his chances.
In fourth place we have Brad Kesolowski.Ã‚Â Brad raced his way into the chase as a wild card racking up 3 wins to get there.Ã‚Â He has been very consistent through the latter half of the season and all the way through the chase, running up front and showing that he is a strong contender, with the will and the drive to get there.Ã‚Â He is more focused that we have seen all year and has that fire to win burning in his eyes.Ã‚Â Although he has not been a Sprint Cup champion before he has a Nationwide Championship to back his credentials, and to show that he has dealt with the pressure before.Ã‚Â Being fourth in the points and only 27 behind the leader he has an excellent shot at it if he can remain as strong as we have seen him be in the second half of the season.
The fifth place driver, and the only other one I see as having a chance to upset the tool cart, is Matt Kenseth, 36 points behind his teammate Carl Edwards.Ã‚Â Kenseth has won a championship before as well and definitely knows about the pressure.Ã‚Â Although Kenseth has struggled in the past few races, his team is strong and has the same engines and chassis selection as Edwards does.Ã‚Â Kenseth has actually won a race since the start of the chase and that puts him in a better class than, Edwards who is still winless throughout the chase so far.Ã‚Â Kenseth also won the last race in Texas and has the ability to repeat that win and change the course of this years chase, of course it all depends on what happens to the rest of the field.Ã‚Â It’s a long shot but it is mathematically possible still.
Edwards may have been on to something, but the reality is that no driver has made up more than 12 points in a single race since the chase began.Ã‚Â When you are a full race in points behind like Jimmie Johnson is right now with only 3 races to go it is hard to visualize anyone that far back getting back into the game at this late stage.Ã‚Â Looking at it that way it really comes down to a 2 man race, with a chance of Harvick becoming the spoiler, a position that Harvick wants desperately to improve on after coming so close last year from the same position.