Stewart and Edwards racing for history

November, 15, 2011

And then there was one, and we're right where we left you. Three points separate Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart for a coveted championship.

The difference? Instead of being virtually a two-man race, it's now literally a two-man race as everybody else has been eliminated … even Chad Little.

Maybe you don't have a rooting interest, and are looking for somebody to sport a T-shirt for in the finale. Well, both are racing for some history.

Edwards is trying to give owner Jack Roush his third title in the last nine years. He's also trying to cement his legacy as just the second driver to win Cup and Nationwide titles, joining Bobby Labonte.

On the Stewart side, his legacy could take a huge jump if he's hoisting the trophy.

In the last 30 years, only Alan Kulwicki has won a Cup title as an owner/driver. Before Kulwicki, the last to do it was Richard Petty in 1979.

Stewart would also become the ninth driver to win at least three Cup titles and the seventh driver to win titles with two different teams.

Now, with the statistical analysis!

Kahne Was Able

Kasey Kahne had been regularly running up front for the past few weeks, and you have to admire his ability to not mail it in, knowing there's a nice, warm seat waiting for him at Hendrick Motorsports next season.

With his current team, Red Bull Racing, facing a very uncertain future after this season, it was also great to see him give that team a visit to Victory Lane before year's end.

Kahne has been impressive throughout the Chase. His 331 points so far is the third-most among all drivers, trailing only Edwards and Stewart. It's 35 more than Kevin Harvick, who's third in points.

Trivia break: How many other Cup wins does Red Bull Racing have?

Model of Consistency

One of the biggest storylines of this Chase is how Stewart, with four Chase wins, continues to trail Edwards, who hasn't won in the Chase and has a single win this season.

But Edwards' average finish so far in the Chase is a 5.2. That mark would be better than six of the seven prior Chase champions, and the third-best mark all-time.

In 2007, Jimmie Johnson had a 5.0 in winning the title. Jeff Gordon's 5.1 that year was good enough for second.

Trivia break: What Chase season had the worst average finish by a champion?

Sweet 18

If you've been reading me throughout the year (thanks to some, and a threatening glare to those who said no), you know I love competition.

This year has proved to be one of the most wide open, with 18 different Cup winners -- leaving us just one shy of tying the Cup record.

Nineteen winners was last done in 2001, including a first-time winner in the season's final race.

It had been done twice before that too, in 1958 and 1961, but in each of those cases, there were over 50 races in the season.

Trivia break: Who won the 2001 season finale to become the 19th different winner?

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 results at the track, to predict who'll be strong in the next race, and the next race only.

Here are my Chase power rankings for Homestead.

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

Trivia Break Answers

1. Brian Vickers has Red Bull Racing's only other win, at Michigan in 2009.
2. Jimmie Johnson won the 2006 title with a 10.8 average finish.
3. Robby Gordon became the 19th different winner of the season.

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.



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?