by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.November 18, 2011 11:38 am UTC No Comments
I hate to borrow from another sport’s marketing campaign to explain this weekend’s Chase for the Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but I feel like the NHL’s playoff slogan says it all: History will be made.
We have a two-way battle for the championship between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, and if either of them win the race, they win the title. It’s as simple as that. Both drivers are on top of their game, unlike last year, when Jimmie Johnson was able to psyche out Denny Hamlin relatively easily. Stewart’s been engaging Edwards pretty heavily in the media, but Edwards doesn’t seem too worried about it.
Perhaps it’s because neither of Stewart’s two Homestead wins came on this track layout. While Smoke dominated the early years of its Cup history, winning the inaugural race in 1999 and again in 2000, track ownership altered its shape and banking in 2003. Since then, Roush Fenway Racing has basically owned the track, winning six of the last seven races there. The last two of those wins, in 2008 and 2010, went to Edwards.
Or perhaps it’s because Edwards is just better at Homestead. Stewart’s got a good track record, with two wins and six top-10s in 12 starts and an average finish of 12.4. But Edwards has two wins and six top-10s of his own in only seven races run. His average finish is 5.7. That’s off the wall. That’s the kind of average finish that will give you 1:2 odds in Vegas.
And yet, Stewart’s won a title under the Chase format before. Edwards hasn’t. Stewart has the advantage of having been in Edwards’ position in 2005 and knowing what throws a leader’s mindset off. He’s got all the confidence in the world – he just needs to execute.
Ignore the change in points formatting before this season. This championship could, theoretically, end in a tie (which would go to Stewart on the strength of more wins). It could be separated by only one or two points, which, under the old system, would still be a narrower margin of victory than Kurt Busch’s eight point win in 2004. Either way, it’s a very slim chance that Sunday becomes a gimme for either driver.
So get your popcorn ready, folks. We’re about to witness history.