Carl Edwards' time to shine at Homestead

November, 17, 2011

First of all, I'd like to thank everybody for sticking with me throughout the season. We had a rocky road: my drug issues, my torrid affairs, my bank-robbing spree.

OK, none of those things actually happened, but that's not how I'll write it in my memoirs. I'll have the best memoirs ever.

The 2011 Chase has been odd, as we have drivers with two completely different methods sitting atop the points. Tony Stewart has looked dominating with his wins, but Carl Edwards' consistency has been remarkable.

By the pure numbers, Stewart has had the most impressive Chase. Not only are his four Chase wins tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most in a single Chase, but his 111.8 driver rating is tops in the Chase and nearly 11 points higher than Edwards' mark.

In fact, Edwards' 101.1 driver rating in the playoff is fourth-highest among the dozen Chasers, also behind Matt Kenseth and Johnson. But he's avoided the calamities that have plagued other contenders, which is why he takes a three-point lead into the finale.

Now, heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway, it's Edwards' time to shine.

Of any track where Edwards has made more than one Cup start, his 5.7 average finish at Homestead is his best mark. In fact, that's the best by any driver who's ever made a Cup start there.

NASCAR has this sweet little statistic called driver rating. It pretty nearly resembles the NFL's passer rating in that anything over 100 is pretty solid and 150 is perfection.

Last year at Homestead, Edwards not only won the race -- he put up a perfect 150 driver rating.

Do you know how many times that's been done over the past two Sprint Cup Series seasons?

Just that one time. Edwards had an average running position of 1.5, led more than 70 percent of the total laps and led the field by running the fastest lap on 61 of 267 circuits.

What makes it even more remarkable is that just two years prior, Edwards nearly did it as well, with a 147.1 driver rating in his Homestead win.

Stewart is no slouch at Homestead. In fact, he's one of three drivers to have won there at least twice. But his wins came in 1999 and 2000, in the first two races at the track and before the reconfiguration.

In the past six races, dating back to when NASCAR began tracking loop data, Stewart had a driver rating over 90 only once there, a 109.3 in 2008.

My official prediction: This is where Edwards drops the hammer. But if 2011 has shown us anything, it's that anything can happen at any time.

The Eliminator: Homestead

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats and some by just picking names off the top of their heads. I don't pick winners -- I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1. The past six Homestead winners finished in the top 13 in the previous year's race (36 eliminated, 12 remaining).

2. The past nine Homestead winners had a top-10 finish in the most recent Atlanta race (five eliminated, seven remaining).

3. The past three Homestead winners finished sixth or better in the most recent Kansas race (two eliminated, five remaining).

4. The past four Homestead winners finished fourth or better in the most recent Sprint Cup race overall (four eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Carl Edwards.

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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