Main event is set in Texas
Edwards, Stewart will go toe-to-toe
FORT WORTH - Cousin Carl vs. Smoke.
There is a tale of the tape, and even lockers complete with boxing gloves and robes for Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, the top contenders in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup points chase. There is huge banner featuring boxing promoter Don King with Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage.
“I didn’t realize Tony volunteered to do a boxing match,’’ said Edwards, smiling after entering the media center between the lockers. “I’m actually pretty excited about that part, but I didn’t know that was going to actually happen.’’
OK, so this “Texas Title Fight’’ - as the race is being billed - will be on the track in today’s AAA Texas 500, and without the often volatile Kyle Busch.
Edwards got to Texas with a mere 8-point lead over Stewart, who last week won for the third time in seven Chase races and in Victory Lane said the points leader “better be worried.’’
Stewart’s feelings haven’t changed since getting to Texas.
“It wasn’t the adrenaline that was saying that,’’ said Stewart. “I’ve been racing 31 years and we’ve been a part of a lot of championship battles and I know what that feeling is when you feel that stuff is going right and that you’ve got that shot again.
“He’s making a mistake if he’s counting us out and if he thinks it’s just a mind-game deal. I’m going to control my destiny and my car.’’
Busch, who was seventh in points, was barred from driving in the Cup and Nationwide races at Texas, a rare step taken by NASCAR after he deliberately wrecked championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. during a caution in the Truck Series race Friday night. Michael McDowell will take over today in Joe Gibbs’s No. 18 car.
Stewart, now a driver-owner, is the last person not named Jimmie Johnson to win a Cup championship. That was in 2005 when he won his second title driving for Gibbs.
But no driver has won more Cup races at Texas than Edwards.
“We couldn’t be coming to a better race track,’’ he said.
Edwards swept both 2008 races and won the fall race in 2005.
Edwards finished third in the Nationwide race yesterday after leading 157 of 200 laps on the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked track. He finished behind Roush Fenway teammate Trevor Bayne and Denny Hamlin, who was driving Busch’s Nationwide entry.
Stewart qualified fifth for today’s race, while Edwards was seventh, meaning the top two will start nose-to-tail.
Greg Biffle, David Ragan, and Matt Kenseth, all Roush Fenway teammates with Edwards, took the top three spots in qualifying.