Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart in control

November, 1, 2011

To those sitting around me in Bristol, Conn., today, it might appear that I'm struggling with this blog, fighting to find the perfect word to keep my readers spellbound.

Actually, I'm just hanging out at work because I'm still without heat and power at my place in Bristol. Me and 700,000 others in Connecticut.

So, it doesn't bother me that we had close to a four-hour race Sunday, especially given that those 3 hours, 49 minutes and 52 seconds were just jam-packed with action.

And it was old-fashioned short-track beatin' and bangin'. Some people are afraid of ghouls and goblins on Halloween; I'll be looking over my shoulder to see whether Brian Vickers is behind me on the highway.

Late-race incidents may have cost both Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski their shot at a championship. Even Jamie McMurray was seeking revenge during the race, somehow having the power -- even without a battery -- to hit Vickers' door.

But through the smoke, Tony Stewart recovered from nearly going a lap down to win and move to second in the points, while Carl Edwards recovered from what looked like a disastrous day to stay atop the Chase standings.

More on that now ...

Lucky No. 14

Stewart entered the Chase winless, and his comments after the August race at Michigan were pessimistic at best.

How quickly winning three of seven races can change things.

With Sunday's win at Martinsville, Stewart has won three races in a single Chase for the second time -- the other came in 2006, when he was not a Chaser. The other two drivers to win three races in a single Chase: Jimmie Johnson and Edwards.

Stewart's numbers through seven races are right there with the numbers from his 2005 title season: five top-10s in each, and an 8.3 average finish this season, compared to 8.9 in 2005 through seven races.

The big difference? Wins. He didn't win a single race during the 2005 Chase.

Trivia break! Who are the only two owner/drivers to win Cup championships since 1972?

Cue the Carl

On the other end of the spectrum is Edwards, who is getting it done in this Chase courtesy of consistency.

Edwards has 23 top-10s through 33 races this season. There have been six instances of drivers with at least 25 top-10s in a season since the Chase started in 2004, but all but one failed to win the title -- Stewart in 2005.

Edwards has one win this season. If he fails to win again but wins the title, he'd be the fifth driver to win a title with a single win but only the third to do so in the modern era (since 1972).

Trivia break! Who are the two drivers to win a Cup title since 1972 with one win?

Names I don't often mention

I like to give credit where credit is due and give some acknowledgment for performances others might overlook -- lightning-round style!

• Jeff Burton finished sixth a week after finishing second. In the first 31 races this season, Burton had one top-10, a ninth at Watkins Glen.

• Casey Mears finished 12th for Germain Racing, tied for the second-best finish in that team's history, and Mears' best in more than two years.

• Travis Kvapil finished 16th, his best finish since the 2008 season finale.

Trivia break! Who was Kvapil driving for in 2008?

Power Rankings

I wanted to come up with something to rank the strength of the Chase drivers on a race-by-race basis. So I came up with a nerdy formula, using recent performance along with recent performance at the respective tracks, to predict who'll be strong in the next race.

Here are my Chase power rankings for Texas:

1. Matt Kenseth
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kyle Busch
4. Tony Stewart
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Carl Edwards
7. Kurt Busch
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
11. Ryan Newman
12. Brad Keselowski

Trivia break answers

1. Richard Petty (four times) and Alan Kulwicki.

2. Kenseth (2003) and Benny Parsons (1973).

3. Kvapil drove for Yates Racing.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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