FORT WORTH, TX - Not often does a major sporting event live up to its hype but on Sunday ,the NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway did just that.
Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart Haas Chevrolet and Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford had been portrayed in pre-race promotions as prize fighters training for a championship bout and on Sunday the two ended up, in fact, battling for the victory right to the final lap.
It was Stewart who walked away with the win but it was Edwards who hung on to the championship belt — by the slimmest of margins.
With two races left — next week at Phoenix and at Homestead Miami the week after that — Edwards stands just three points ahead of Stewart.
But Stewart, with his fourth win in the first eight Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship events, succeeded in his promise to make Edward’s quest for a first title as tough as possible.
And in the post-race celebration Stewart made it clear that his bravado after his win last week at Martinsville that Edwards “should be losing sleep” worrying about the No. 14 Chevrolet was more than just hyperbole.
“I told you guys that last week, nobody listens to me when I talk anymore,” he said of his predicting that he would close in on Edwards. “I mean we are set on it man, this is just the way it is going to be.”
He said that his actions are now speaking for themselves.
“I don’t think we have to say anything,” he said. “Our performance speaks for itself. Do not count us out of this thing,”
As for Edwards, he was insistent after the race that he was not going to be laying awake this week worrying about how close Stewart is behind him in the Chase.
“It’s going to be a great battle,” Edwards said. “I am really looking forward to it.”
In fact, Edwards thinks that while the No. 14 team has proven better on the mile-and-a-half tracks, he thinks his No. 99 squad will have an advantage at the newly-configured and newly paved one- mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway.
“Our short-track program has been really strong,” he said.
Edwards thinks now that the championship fight is down to just the No. 99 and No. 14 teams it makes preparing for the next two races more exciting.
“We get to pull out all the stops for these last two races and there couldn’t be a better place to finish it than Homestead,” he said of the Florida track that wraps up the season. “I think folks ought to stay tuned. It’s gonna get pretty exciting and I’m just glad Tony and I are out there and we can race for this thing.”
Kasey Kahne finished third, with Matt Kenseth fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were sixth and seventh, respectively.
Nationwide Series driver Michael McDowell may have wished he didn’t get the chance to race the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at TMS on Sunday because he certainly suffered by comparison by finishing 33rd, three laps down, subbing for the banned Kyle Busch. ... Texas Motor Speedway super promoter Eddie Gossage faced competition for Dallas-Fort Worth entertainment dollars for the first time on Sunday when the NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA Texas 500 went head to head with the National Football League Dallas Cowboys who hosted Seattle at Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington. Final results showed Dallas to be true sports town, with an estimated 110,000 at TMS and another 80,000 at Cowboys Stadium. ... Rumour mill is running overtime in the Cup garage about whether super sponsor M&M will be back with JGR after Busch’s meltdown. There is also speculation that Home Deport, the primary sponsor of the Gibbs’ No. 20 Toyota with Joey Logano, is not happy with that arrangement.