Stewart gives Edwards reason to worry
Posted: Monday, November 7, 2011 7:02 pm
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Another round to Tony Stewart, and quite a fight for the Cup title with two races left.
Stewart raced to his second consecutive victory, and won for the fourth time in eight NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup races, finishing just ahead of points leader Carl Edwards in the so-called “Texas Title Fight” that fully lived up to its billing Sunday.
And Stewart backed up his challenge.
After winning last week at Martinsville, Stewart got out of his car in Victory Lane and said Edwards “better be worried. That’s all I’m saying.”
Now it appears to be a two-driver fight for the championship with two races left after they finished 1-2 at the 11⁄2-mile, high-banked Texas track.
Stewart cut his points deficit from eight points to three with an average speed of 152.705 mph, the fastest Cup race at Texas, and a 1.092-second margin over Edwards.
“We’re set on it, man. This is just the way it’s going to be,” Stewart said. “I don’t think we have to say anything (else). I think our performance today speaks for itself. He knows already, trust me.”
The series returns next week to Phoenix, where the track has been reconfigured and resurfaced since Stewart was seventh and Edwards 28th there in February in the second race this season, and then to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the finale. Edwards won both races at the end of last season.
Stewart led seven times for a race-high 173 of 334 laps, and more importantly stayed ahead of Edwards down the stretch.
On a restart with 60 laps to go after the second caution in a matter of laps, Edwards was the leader and on the inside of Stewart.
Coming out of Turn 2, Stewart shot by onto the backstretch and charged back to the lead.
“He timed it just right,” said Edwards, who led three times for 14 laps.
Stewart stayed in front until both made their final stops with 31 laps left. Though they dropped out of the 1-2 spots on the track during the cycle of green-flag stops, more importantly for Stewart was that he stayed ahead of Edwards.
The last lead change came with five laps left when Jeff Burton, who was trying to match Edwards as a three-time Cup winner at Texas, ran out of fuel. Burton had been the only car not to make a late stop, and was trying to stretch his last tank to the end.
During the first of those two cautions in a span of only six laps, Edwards had taken his first lead in more than 150 laps when he got only two tires and jumped from third to first out of the pits. Stewart also took only two tires on that stop, but came out second.
When Stewart came down pit road after the race, Edwards stuck his head in and shared a few words with his closest competitor.
“I just told him, ‘Good job.’ He did a great job today. Those guys stepped it up,” Edwards said.
Published in The Messenger 11.7.11