Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Tony Stewart has seldom seemed this confident: this NASCAR championship, he vows, is his to win

  Southpaws are always tough to fight, as Tony Stewart jabs at Texas promoter Eddie Gossage (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   FORT WORTH, Texas
   Like Babe Ruth pointing to the center-field bleachers and then delivering that legendary home run, Tony Stewart pointed here to victory lane before the Texas 500 and then delivered another blow at Carl Edwards Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in their NASCAR championship duel.
   And it isn't just boasting when you can deliver the way Stewart has been delivering these past eight weeks.

   Their 1-2 finish, although it might not have the down-and-dirty slugfest promoter Eddie Gossage had hoped for, put Edwards and Stewart on a title collision course at Phoenix and Homestead over the next 14 days, in the final miles of the seemingly endless NASCAR season.
   Everyone else can only sit back now and watch.
   And Stewart, in victory, exuded remarkable confidence that he is now the man to watch.

   Kyle Busch, one of the tour's big winners this season, was forced by NASCAR to sit atop Joe Gibbs' pit box for the eighth race of the 10-race chase, after being severely penalized for Friday night's Truck race run-in with Ron Hornaday.
   And NASCAR president Mike Helton holds out the possibility of even more penalties for Busch, who was also forced to sit out Saturday's Nationwide race. Sponsor Mars has weighed in with a brief statement – "The recent actions by Kyle Busch are not consistent with the values of M&M's and we're very disappointed. Like you, we hold those who represent our brand to a higher standard and we have expressed our concerns directly to Joe Gibbs Racing."
   An ESPN survey, unscientific, reported that 55 percent of Sunday's respondents said Gibbs ought to fire Busch for crashing Hornaday.
   The Stewart-Edwards title fight and the Busch controversy were the only major stories Sunday, in what was really a lackluster race, slowed three times for debris, once for a Jimmie Johnson spin, and again for a Brian Vickers bump that sent Geoff Bodine into Juan Pablo Montoya.
   The final 90 miles went green, and the fuel window was 75 miles, setting up a final round of green flag pit stop strategies. Stewart and Edwards, dominating down the stretch, both pitted with 50 miles to go. Stewart, who led a whopping 173 of the 334 laps, had to wait for gambling Jeff Burton to make his final stop with five laps to go before regaining the lead. But Edwards was again unable to catch Stewart.


    Heavyweight: Tony 'Smoke' Stewart, strutting his stuff at Texas Motor Speedway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   For a guy who has been racing for more than 30 years, and who has won championships and lost championships, and who ran bad at Dover just a few weeks ago, and who suffered through a dismal seven months earlier this season, Stewart has been in a downright amazing mood – almost bragging that this is his championship and he's going to take it from Edwards.
   "I'm not worried about anybody," Stewart declared. "These next two weeks I don't care what he does. All I care about is our car and our team.
    "There are 35 percent of the things that happen on a race weekend that we can control, and 65 percent that you can't. So you concentrate on that 35 percent."
   yes, it's been a while since Stewart won at either Phoenix or Homestead, and Edwards won at both last year. But Stewart Sunday night seemed supremely confident he has things well under control.
    "It's been a while since we'd won at Martinsville, and we won last week. And it's been a while since we'd won here, but we won today," Stewart said.
   With the possibility of rain, and the warm temperatures at the start of the race (3 p.m. ET), and then late afternoon shadows over the track, Stewart said    "This is a race where the conditions change a bunch from the beginning of the day to the end.  I was real proud we were able to adapt all day long."
  Stewart says his game plan was, and is, simple – beat Carl Edwards.
    "Restarts were key obviously," Stewart said.  "But we got a really good restart that last one, (so) we had the lead coming into the pit stop.  Our guys did an awesome job in the pits to get us out ahead of him.  That was really the difference -- that track position, and being able to run our pace, versus trying to make something happen to catch him.
    "We're not counting on them to make mistakes; we're controlling our destiny.  Today is a perfect example of that.  We're not worried about what they're doing.  We just ran our race.  That's what we intend to do the next two weeks.
    "It's theirs to lose now.  But I don't know that they have a choice now.  I mean we did what we said we were going to do: We're going to take it if we want it. 
    "Today is a perfect example -- we took five points off that deficit.  We have that ability to do that the next two weeks."
   And what a turnaround since mid-August. 
   "I didn't think we belonged in the chase to start with; I didn't think we were a factor," Stewart reflects back. 
   And now?
   "What do we have to lose?  We don't have anything to lose. 
    "I don't care about second or third in the points.  After you won it, second doesn't really matter.
    "It's a good battle right now. This was a good race; we never really got far away from each other, and at the end it was down to the two of us.
    "If you're Brian France (the NASCAR CEO) right now, I would say he's giddy.  If not, he should be, because this is the perfect scenario.
    "This is about as exciting as it gets, to have two guys that are down to three points with two weeks to go."
    Edwards, after the race, took a funny pen to Stewart's picture in the infield media center….after Stewart himself had thrown some girlie stuff in Edwards' promotional 'boxing locker.'
    "I saw that," Stewart mused.  "The bad thing is I look really bad to start with, so he actually made me look a little better.
    "But I think he was actually a little too infatuated with me to be drawing on me.  Kind of scares me he was so concerned about it."
    And Stewart almost laughed at that jab.
    More serious, Stewart pointed out "What we did on the racetrack said everything we needed to tell him today. I don't know how you top that.
    "He knows.  Trust me, he knows.  If he's out there drawing on me, he knows.
    "We're aggressive right now. I'm taking charge and trying to control my own destiny. Today showed what our intentions are and what we're about for these next two weeks."

   Edwards himself again seemed a little perplexed at Stewart's chase charge.
   "Now we get to pull out all the stops," Edwards said. "Our team, we've been hanging on.  We're leading these points. And there couldn't be a better place to finish it than Homestead. 
    "Folks ought to stay tuned.  It's going to get pretty exciting. I'm just glad Tony and I can race for this thing.
     "Phoenix is still a huge unknown (with new asphalt).  Tony was out there for that tire test with us, and I got to see how good those guys were.  I feel like we're going to be pretty good.
    "The surprising thing for all of us was how well Tony ran here. I didn't expect him to run quite that well, and it makes me think Homestead could be a lot closer than I expected before this race.
    "So we really think Phoenix has a larger opportunity -- by a landslide -- to change the outcome of this chase.
    "If Tony and I run one-two at Homestead, there's not much of a points change, if we run like we did tonight; but Phoenix has the potential to be huge."

   Clean-shaven? What's that all about? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com