Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Edwards Holds On To Chase Lead Despite Stewart Win

DALLAS, TEXAS – It was an exciting weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart made an impressive showing winning the race and coming within three points of Chase leader Carl Edwards. "I don't think we have to say anything," Stewart said in Victory Lane. "I think our performance spoke for itself. He knows we're there -- trust me - Carl kept us honest. We got all the bonus points we could get and we got the win, so we gained more than we needed to gain on the average for the week. Stewart led much of the race, but Edwards got the jump on a restart on lap 267. Stewart wrestled the lead back from Edwards on lap 275, but after a series of pit stops, fell back. On lap 334, he regained the lead when Jeff Burton ran out of gas with 4-laps to go.

Edwards kept up the pressure to the end, but had to settle for second place. "Although we would have loved to have won [Sunday], to be three points ahead, and then to have the third- and fourth-place guys farther behind, it looks like it's truly going to come down to Tony and I, and that's going to be a lot of fun," Edwards said. Kasey Kahne finished up in third place followed by Matt Kenseth. Greg Biffle finished in the top-five. Jeff Gordon ended up in sixth – good enough to move him up 2 points in the Chase.

Tony Stewart has won four of the eight races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. None of the other drivers in this year’s Chase has won more than one. While Edwards has been extremely consistent this year, he has not won a Chase race yet. In fact, he has only won one race this year – Las Vegas in March. With two races remaining in the season, Edwards has a three-point lead over Stewart in pursuit of the series championship. This season, Edwards’ has consistently finished well. He has 17 top fives to Stewart’s seven and 24 top 10s to Stewart’s 17. So the question is, does consistency win Championships? We’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.

The other story of the weekend was Kyle Busch’s antics in Saturday’s truck race when he decided to take out Ron Hornaday after some contact on lap 15. Hornaday and Busch were racing side-by-side when they came up on Johnny Chapman. As Hornaday, a championship contender, moved up the track to avoid Chapman, he got loose and made contact with Busch, sending them both into the wall. Both trucks made minimal contact with the wall and continued on before the caution flag was raised. Busch caught Hornaday and rammed into the rear of his truck, then made a move to the right then left spearing Hornaday in the left rear quarter resulting in both cars hitting the wall. Busch was sent to the garage by NASCAR officials and was ultimately fined $50,000 and made to sit out of Sunday’s Cup race. This was a costly action by Busch as he was in 7th place in the chase.

This is not the first time Busch has crossed the line this year. At Darlington in May, Busch had a pit row altercation with Kevin Harvick resulting in probation for both drivers. Later, Busch had his driver’s license taken away for speeding in a sports car at 120 mph in a 45 mph residential zone. At the Kansas race, he got punched in the face by Richard Childress for wrecking one of his cars. At Bristol, Kyle retaliated against Elliott Sadler following some race contact, now the aggression at TMS against Hornaday. Obviously, Busch is having some emotional difficulty in dealing with the pressures of Sprint Cup racing. Though Kyle was driving his own car in the truck race, Joe Gibbs made a public statement accepting full responsibility for Busch’s actions. “What we are going to try to do now, other things that have happened in the past, we’ve tried to handle those things the right way, tried to make the right decisions and certainly that’s what we’re going to try to do with this.” Gibbs praised NASCAR for their decision adding that “I always trust NASCAR, I think they do a great job. It’s grown because of them and the way they handle it. I have great faith in the decisions they make.”

In a post-race interview, Darrell Waltrip commented that, if anyone can, “ Joe Gibbs can teach Kyle Busch respect for the other drivers.” He added that “art of greatness is respect.” We can all learn a bit from that nugget of truth.

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