Stewart, Johnson, Edwards and Biffle have chance at the championship, at Ford 400 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 15, 2005) -- Tony Stewart has the lead and also has some history on his side, going into Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season...
Stewart, Johnson, Edwards and Biffle have chance at the championship, at Ford 400
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 15, 2005) -- Tony Stewart has the lead and also has some history on his side, going into Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season finale, the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
On the other hand, he also has three rivals who remain in contention for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship.
And Stewart's advantage, while encouraging from his perspective is by no means substantial enough to warrant over-confidence.
Merely 102 points separate Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) from fourth-place Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), Biffle being the last driver still eligible for the title.
In between first and fourth? Even tighter. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) is second behind Stewart, 52 behind; third-place Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Chevrolet) is 87 back.
For the purposes of gauging -- or actually, guessing -- whether any of those numbers will change on Sunday, you need to examine this next set of numbers.
Start with Stewart, whose Homestead history includes two victories, three top-five finishes and four top 10s in six starts. Stewart won the first two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events held at the track, in 1999 and 2000. Johnson hasn't won in four Homestead starts but he does have two top fives and three top 10s, including a best finish of second last year.
Edwards has limited Homestead experience, to say the least -- one start resulting in a 14th-place finish, that coming last year when he was wrapping up his "preparation course" for this season's full-scale assault on the series. Inexperience, though, hasn't hindered Edwards; he comes into the finale with four victories on the year.
Biffle is the longest shot of this week's contenders, but he also is the Ford 400's defending champion.
Each of the three drivers chasing Stewart need some help, in the form of an off-day by the point leader. Stewart needs only to finish ninth or better to clinch his second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title -- no matter how his three pursuers finish.
Stewart says his 2002 championship season still serves him as both motivation and preparation.
"I can promise you, I want this championship worse than the rest of the drivers do," Stewart said. "A lot of them have not won a championship yet, so people are going to ask how come I want it more. The one we won in 2002 kind of had an asterisk with the team. It was just not a clean year. We had a lot of turmoil and trouble amongst ourselves internally. I created a lot of turmoil with things that happened on and off the track.
"This is one I want to win for [crew chief] Greg Zipadelli more than the rest of the competition can possibly imagine. It doesn't mean we're going to win it, but if they're going to win it, they're going to have to take it from me.
"We've been through this deal once before. We kind of know what to expect. We're not controlling the whole Chase. But we are controlling the side of it that we can, and that's with our car. That's what made it so easy for us. You look at the other teams and they're all focusing on what we're doing. We like that. We want them to do that. That lets us focus on what we're doing and not on what they're doing."