HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Carl Edwards controls his own fate during Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As long as he finishes ahead of Tony Stewart, he will win his first Sprint Cup Series championship.
Both drivers have taken diverse roads to the season-finale – Edwards staying out of trouble with eight top-10 finishes during the playoffs; Stewart winning four times in nine Chase for the Championship races.
The Camping World Truck and Nationwide series also will crown new champions.
The trucks are down to three contenders – Austin Dillon, Johnny Sauter and James Buescher, while the Nationwide title is a two-man race involving Ricky Stenhouse and Elliott Sadler.
Stenhouse can clinch the Nationwide title by finishing no worse than 37th in Saturday’s Ford 300, while Dillon can win the truck championship by finishing 16th or better.
The championship races are the primary focuses during the final racing weekend of the season, especially the three-point difference between Edwards and Stewart.
The Chase started with 12 drivers. Now it’s down to two. Edwards has two ways to clinch: win the race or finish ahead of Stewart. Edwards has done that in four of nine playoff races.
“He’s keeping me honest; I’m keeping him honest,” Stewart said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a dead heat going in (to Homestead).”
“One of us will win; one of us will lose,” Edwards said. “For us, I can say completely truthfully this is the best Chase we’ve ever had. If they beat us they are beating us at our best.”
Edwards has history working on his side. Jimmie Johnson (2010), Alan Kulwicki (1992) and Richard Petty (1979) are the only drivers who’ve rallied from second place to the championship in the final race since NASCAR started its point system in 1975.
Another thing working in Edwards’ favor is the fact his race organization, Roush Fenway Racing, has won seven of 12 races at the 1.5-mile speedway – including six of the past seven.
There’s no question the season has been disappointing for several drivers. Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are marquee drivers without a win.
Nobody feels the pressure more than Earnhardt, who hasn’t won since 2008.
“Everybody is getting desperate because, you know, you want to run good,” Earnhardt said.