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And so it comes down to this… the 2011 NASCAR Cup Championship is all about winning, or at least, three points. Tony Stewart needs to win at Homestead or at least finish four points ahead of Carl Edwards by the end of the race Sunday afternoon and he will be the Cup Champion. Carl Edwards needs to win or finish just behind or just ahead of Stewart and he will be the Cup Champ. Either way, there is truly no way of knowing until the race is over, (or one or both of them drop out because of and accident or major failure) which one it will be.
From this fan’s view, this is exactly what NASCAR hoped for when they started the Chase format for the Championship and there couldn’t be a better way to end the year. (Well, there are those that think it would be better if the points were closer throughout the top twelve and more than two could win it.) This is not the first time the points battle has been close, but it is the first time it has been this close with the new points system and with the competition throughout the cup teams being as close as it has ever been.
I probably don’t have to remind you again, but this fan doesn’t generally put much stock in qualifying. Everybody knows it’s not how fast you can go for one or two laps but how fast you can consistently go over many laps. Preferably, it is important for a driver to be able to gain places on the track, maintain a faster speed than his competitors and have his pit crew pick up even more time for him in the pits and maintain track position.
It is important to notice where Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards qualified however, if for no other reason than who is going to be in clean air first (and possibly most often.) Carl Edwards qualified on the pole for today’s Championship race while Tony Stewart qualified fifteenth. I’m not so sure that was exactly how Tony wanted to start the race but he did seemed to be more pleased with his race trim than qualifying trim.
That’s where the importance of those consistently fast lap times I mentioned earlier come in. It was obvious Tony and crew chief Darian Grubb were working on the race trim during their practice times much more than qualifying. One of the biggest problems I see with where he is starting is how many possibilities for getting caught up in something not of his own making. In other words, it is possible his chances for moving forward or winning could be hurt by someone else’s mistake.
By starting on the pole, Carl Edwards has a definite advantage. From my view, his first worry is whether his crew chief, Bob Osborn’s setup is good for the beginning of the race and he pulls away from the field out into clean air. There is always the possibility the setup could be missed by just enough to cause him to fall back into the field, as has happened in the recent past, and open up the possibilities for problems (much like Tony Stewart could face from the start), and I hate to put a damper on the whole day, but neither one of them may even be close to the front for the whole race.
Now you may ask, “Do I really think that’s what going to happen?” Well… no… but, I won’t rule out the possibility either. NASCAR is way to competitive right now to think that everyone is going to move over and let the top two just work it out between themselves. I do have to admit, I don’t think Homestead is the place there are going to be a lot of paybacks for something, but I do know the competitive spirit will be very evident throughout the race.
Let’s not forget that NASCAR is all about winning and, although I know there only two that can win the Championship, there are more than two that want to finish the year with a trip to victory lane. In fact, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Bush and Brad Keselowski would like nothing better than to finish ahead of both Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart and won’t think twice about putting them behind them or making it hard for them to pass them.
If you’re wondering why I feel this way about it, it’s all because of a thing called adrenaline. No matter what attitude a person may have before the race starts, when the green flag drops, the “bull-hockey” stops and the adrenaline kicks in. If recent weeks tell us anything, not everyone of the drivers will make good decisions about how they’re treated by their fellow competitors or handle every situation with cool, calm deliberation. No, several will react without considering the consequences of their actions and how they might affect even the most innocent of bystanders. (It wouldn’t be the first time that someone reacted and took out someone other than they intended, especially this year.)
So, from this fan’s view, the hope is the race will come down to Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart battling for the win on the final laps and one of them coming away with the win and the Championship.
Will it be a race that Carl Edwards dominates and Tony Stewart struggles all day or, possibly, the other way around? That’s a good question and one that will only be answered as the race progresses.
Is it possible that both, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards fall back and it is just a points battle between them while someone else dominates the race? I don’t know, but it is a possibility. In fact, with only three points separating the top two drivers, anything can and probably will happen. The only thing I really hope is that it isn’t a complete blowout by one of them and the whole race becomes a ho-hum experience. I really would like to see the race to come down to the final lap and some doubt as to who might win until they cross the finish line.
So… will it be Tony Stewart or Carl Edwards that wins the 2011 Cup Championship? Yep, it will…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 19, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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