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Carl Edwards: magnanimous in defeat, on a most magical night in the championship finale

  Carl Edwards laces up for the championship showdown, with crew chief Bob Osborne right behind him (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   It was one of the most magical championship races ever, a simply dazzling display by both Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, head to head for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title, on a soggy night in south Florida, filled with stunning moves and gritty charges…and in the end a heart-breaking loss for Edwards, who dominated the championship race from the start of the season right up till the final miles.
   Stewart over the 10 weeks of the playoffs was driving as if possessed, with a determination, and confidence, rarely seen in this sport, even during Jimmie Johnson's long reign, which Stewart thus broke.

   "Man, I'm telling you it's been a tough, tough summer, and a tough fall for us," Stewart said, amid a post-race downpour. "And you've got to believe in something -- and the man upstairs held the rain off long enough for us to get the job done."
   Edwards went to victory lane to congratulate Stewart, who called Edwards "a great competitor, great guy.
   "We've been giving him a rough time this week, but it was all in an effort to do what we did, and that's to win this championship.
    "But it shows how classy a guy he is. He was the first one to me, and he just said 'Promise me one thing -- you'll enjoy this… and I hope you and I are in this position again next year.'
     "So much class. A great guy."

    Carl Edwards: classy in defeat (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Indeed. And moments later Edwards met journalists here and delivered one of the most moving performances, in dealing with his emotions and the championship loss.
     The last hour of the race was an almost superhuman duel between the two.
     A.J. Foyt, at one time Stewart's mentor, called Stewart's performance "the best race of his life."
     As the laps wound down – the final 37 were under green, after rain stopped – the race quickly boiled down to Edwards chasing Stewart, as the rest of the field faded fast from view.
   "I was fully prepared for Tony to run out of fuel…for him to have a tire problem…for anything to happen…for a caution to come out and have a restart," Edwards said.
   "I didn't really let myself think about the consequences of what was going on.  I just had to go drive the hardest I could. And I did.  I drove it to the edge and beyond. And that's all I had.
     "As painful as this is right now, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to go to Daytona and start all over again."


Tony Stewart hoists the NASCAR championship trophy (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    While Edwards may be able to take the pain, crew chief Bob Osborne may need Edwards' support in getting over this titantic battle.  
    "I just wanted to make sure that Bob knew that I believe he's the best crew chief here, and that he will be my crew chief for as long as he wants to be, and I'm behind him and his decisions 100 percent," Edwards said.
   "As tough as it is for me, it's tougher for those guys."
   Though it may take a while to sink it, Edwards is part of one of the greatest championship battles in NASCAR history, though that may be of little compensation right now.
   The incredible drama could well be just the Game Seven that this sport needs to regain momentum, particularly economic momentum.


   Crew chief Bob Osborne and engine man Doug Yates. Three Ford engines broke during the 400, making for some tense moments (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   The pressure of these past three weeks was telling on Edwards, particularly after Stewart's surprising win at Texas.
    "If there weren't pressure, there weren't be any diamonds, that's what my trainer says," Edwards said.
    "We dealt with a lot of pressure, and I feel very proud of the way our team handled everything.
     "I'm telling you if I'm in this position next year, I'm going to be better at it. You don't get every day a lesson like this.
     "Kipling's poem ("If") says 'You have to meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.'  That's the truth."

     Edwards said that he is "very proud" of how the team performed in the chase. "I've run some of the best races in my life in this chase.  Kansas was unbelievable.  Martinsville -- I've never used my head as much as I did at Martinsville.  I've never been able to put down my frustration like I did at Dover.
    "If I look back on this, there's not one thing that I say 'Man, I wish I'd have done this.'
    "I'm truly proud of this season."

     Words may not tell the full tale of this toe-to-toe title fight.
     "It's been a true test, it's been a battle," Edwards said. "Here are two guys -- one who has a lot more experience in these situations, and won half the races in the chase.  And the other guy stood his ground, and did a darned good job of forcing these guys to perform their best. I'm proud of that. 
     "To be honest with you I was very, very impressed with Tony. For all the talk and chest pounding he did, I could see he was really nervous about this too. 
      "They had to perform at a very high level. And I honestly thought there was a good chance of them making a mistake -- him over driving, trying too hard.
    "And they showed a lot of mental toughness -- to watch us lead the first half of this race, and not panic, not make mistakes."


      Homestead-Miami Speedway: the field of play for NASCAR's championship showdown, and there were clouds and rain (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Karma, Jack, Karma

When Jack Roush ordered Trevor Bayne off the 24 as the green flag waved for the last restart at Talladega, I sensed that Edwards and Kenseth's championship runs began to evaporate. Its karma, Jack. Let them race...that's what the sports all about. Stewart's the SC champ today because Edwards was playing defense during the Chase. It doesn't work in the NFL and the same it true for most major racing series. Any comments from Roush? It had to be humiliating to lose the race and title during the Ford Championship Weekend finale with financier John Henry and Edsel Ford ready for some camera time. Roush carries a chip on his shoulder because Gordon has more Sprint Cup titles than his entire organization. There are so many people who want to see Ford win this series again. Its karma Jack, its karma. Remember that the next time you're inspired to issue team orders!

stewart was jeff gordon &

stewart was jeff gordon & jimmy johnson awesome only a hendrick chevy can get away with a chase dominate performance like that or to have the aero advantage he had through the chase being able to drive deeper into the turns than anyone else and get back on the throtle faster than everyone else if a under acheiving ford came into the chase and showed that kind of dominance nascar would have been making rule changes before the next race. nascar wonders why theyre losing so many fans and now sponsors and teams and cant see that when they allow hendrick and chevy to pull off crap like this it turns fans away i mean everyone was pretty much running the way they ran all season ecept stewart an he just happen to be jimmy johnson better than everyone else. pittyfull pittyfull pittyfull good luck with your future naschevy.

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