Edwards vs Stewart: Just the facts

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:11 PM ET

Sun media’s auto racing guru, Dean McNulty, analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart racing teams as they prepare for the final race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Sunday, in Homestead, Fla.

TEAM EDWARDS

THE GOOD

The reason Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford team goes into the Ford 400 Sunday at Homestead Miami Speedway in first place is simple: Consistency.

Over the course of the 35 races leading up to Homestead Edwards has a NASCAR best 18 Top 5s, and 25 Top 10s.

And his three-point cushion over Tony Stewart can be directly linked to his one win this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

For that Edwards was awarded a three-point bonus going into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

According to statistics supplied by NASCAR, Edwards has history on his side in his fight for the Cup.

In all of the previous championships since 1948 only three drivers have overcome a points deficit in the final race to win the title: In 1979 when Richard Petty beat Darrell Waltrip; in 1992 when Alan Kulwicki beat Davey Allison and last season when Jimmie Johnson came from behind to beat Denny Hamlin at Homestead.

Edwards also has a great record at Homestead’s 1.5 mile oval. He has two wins, four Top 5s and six Top 10s in seven Homestead starts.

And he owns the top average finish (5.7) and hasn’t finished outside the Top 10 since his first visit to the track, a 14th-place run in 2004.

THE BAD

Edwards came into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with a reputation as a “pretty boy.”

But it didn’t take long for his competitors to find out that he was as mean as a rattlesnake inside the No. 99 RFR Ford.

His first encounter of the bent metal kind came in 2005 when he started his long-running feud with Kyle Busch.

At the August race that year at Bristol Motor Speedway Edwards punted Busch out of the way to claim victory. The two then played bumper cars after the race much to the displeasure of NASCAR bosses.

But Edwards’ most dangerous battles have come against Brad Keselowski in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races.

In the 2009 spring Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway Keselowski pumped Edwards for the lead, sending the No. 99 Ford into a violent roll over, eventually flying off into the catch fence. Ten fans were injured but Edwards walked away.

The next season Edwards got pay back, crashing into Keselowski in a Nationwide race at Gateway Speedway.

NASCAR stepped in and fined both drivers.

THE UNUSUAL

Edwards fancies himself as somewhat of a musician and he takes it very seriously.

He owns and operates a full-fledged recording studio and record label — Back40 Records, a company he started with a high school friend back in his hometown of Columbia, Mo.

Edwards lists country music stars Zac Brown Band, Brandon Heath and Jason Aldean as his favourites musical acts.

His best friend in the sports world his WWE wrestler John Cena. Edwards even took part in Wrestlemania XXV in Houston in 2009.

Edwards’ trademark back flip from the top of his race car was actually crafted after he saw it first at a wrestling match.

THE STATS

Wins Top 5s Top 10s Poles Earnings

Sprint Cup: 19 88 143 9 $51,896,478

Nationwide Series: 37 128 172 27 $13,698,674

Camping World Truck Series: 60 6 24 35 4 $1,374,870

2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series — Rookie of the Year

2005 NASCAR Busch Series — Rookie of the Year

2007 NASCAR Busch Series Champion

2011 Sprint All-Star Race Winner

THE CAR

Edwards drives the No. 99 Ford Fusion. Ford has won 15 Sprint Cup championships.

TEAM STEWART

THE GOOD

Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet team comes into Homestead Miami Speedway on a roll that few NASCAR Sprint Cup championship contenders have ever enjoyed.

But Stewart started the 10-race Chase for the Championship as a decided underdog — in fact he himself declared before the first race at Chicagoland that his team shouldn’t even be considered as among the favourites.

That was the end of the longshot talk because Stewart promptly went out and won that first race and has hardly looked back since.

In the past three races — Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix — the No. 14 team has two wins and a third-place finish, respectively.

And don’t forget that Stewart has won the big prize twice before — in 2002 under the pre-Chase format and again in 2005 under the Chase scheme. He is the only driver to have won under both formats.

A third Sprint Cup would also put him in select company with David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Lee Petty and Darrell Waltrip. All are either in the NASCAR Hall of Fame or will be inducted in January.

At Homestead, Stewart has two wins, three Top 5s and six Top 10s in 12 starts. His two wins came in the first two races at Homestead, in 1999 and 2000.

THE BAD

Stewart came into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He was resentful that Jeff Gordon — a fellow graduate of the Indiana school of short track racing — was considered a much better driver and given preferential treatment in the media.

In his second Cup season in a race at Watkins Glen Stewart ad Gordon wrecked, with Stewart unleashing a torrent of obscenities at the No. 24 Chevrolet driver within earshot of the media. In another incident the next season Stewart punted Gordon in a post-race tirade leading to Stewart earning his first NASCAR probation.

He next targeted the media, first throwing a reporter’s tape recorder under a team hauler and then throwing a punch at a photographer at the Brickyard 400 after he had wrecked.

The latter incident cost Stewart another term of probation and a reported $100,000 fine from his then sponsor Home Depot.

While he has been on mostly good behaviour since forming his own team, Stewart did get involved in an on-track scuffle with Brian Vickers at Infineon Raceway earlier this season.

THE UNUSUAL

Stewart makes millions of dollars as one of the top stock car race car drivers in the world and performs before an audience of hundreds of thousands every week in the Sprint Cup series.

But he is most happy driving late model cars on Saturday night at dirt tracks in the World of Outlaw Series in which he owns several teams. In fact Stewart said his most treasured win this season was at little Oshweken Speedway near Wayne Gretzky’s hometown of Brantford, Ont.

Stewart still carries the big replica cheque he was given for his win in the back window of his bus.

And he owns his own dirt track — the legendary Eldora Speedway — in Indiana.

He is much more rock and roll in his musical tastes listing AC/DC, Dire Straits, Sting and Diamond Rio as his favourite musicians.

THE STATS

Wins Top5s Top10s Poles Earnings

Sprint Cup Series: 43 161 265 13 $94,505,302

Nationwide Series: 10 29 39 6 $2,834,073

Camping World Trucks Series: 2 4 5 0 $128,965

1995 USAC Triple Crown Champion

1997 IndyCar Champion

2002, 2005 Sprint Cup Series Champion

2005, 2007 Brickyard 400 winner

2006 IROC Champion

2009 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race winner

THE CAR

Tony Stewart drives the No. 14 Chevrolet Impala SS. Chevrolet has won 35 Sprint Cup championships.


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