NASCAR: Edwards, Stewart may duel

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

By Scott Adamson
Scripps Howard News Service
Just for the contrast of it all, I’d like nothing better than for the final week of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season to come down to a battle between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.
When the drivers arrive at Miami-Homestead Speedway for the 2011 finale, these two guys should hold down the top two positions in the points standings, separated by the slimmest of margins and far enough ahead of the other Chase competitors that it’s obvious the title will be settled between them.
If that’s the case, it shouldn’t be hard to choose sides.
In one corner you have Edwards, who can come across as one of the nicest guys in the world and yet is considered by some fellow competitors as the sheer embodiment of evil.
He intentionally wrecked Brad Keselowski last year at Atlanta and has been involved with other racing “feuds.” He’s even had trouble getting along with teammates, once throwing (and pulling) a punch at Roush Fenway Racing stable mate Matt Kenseth.
There’s no debating his talent, and when he drives his Ford to victory he celebrates by doing a back flip.
He is arguably the most physically fit driver in the sport.
While the post-race gymnastics have helped make him a fan favorite, so, too, has his penchant for going into the stands to celebrate with supporters.
In the other corner you have Stewart — often surly, always sarcastic and still likable. There aren’t many (if any) people in the media he cares for, but there are a lot of us who like him because he’s honest and real.
And it doesn’t hurt that the Chevrolet driver sometimes looks like an Elvis impersonator coming off a three-day bender.
Give him a shave and some sideburns and squeeze him into a custom-made karate outfit and he could star in a tribute tour.
I’m relatively certain he has never tried to do a back flip.
Of course, “Smoke” has quite a temper, too.
He’s had dustups with fellow drivers, race officials — earlier this year, he had a physical confrontation with an Australian track owner.
And after winning the race at Martinsville on Sunday, he’s ready to take the fight to Edwards.
With three races remaining in the Chase, Edwards holds down the top spot and Stewart is in second place, just 8 points back.
If it can only be that way with one to go, we should be in for quite a show.
“He better not sleep too long the next three weeks,” Stewart said. “It’s no disrespect — he’s a great competitor and great guy with a great organization, and they deserve to be in this situation. But we’re hungry for this. We’ve been nice to a lot of guys all year and given guys a lot of breaks, but we’re cashing tickets these next three weeks.”
Edwards accepts the challenge.
“Tony and those guys obviously have won three Chase races and he’s a guy you have to beat for the championship, but we’ll have fun,” Edwards said. “We’ll race hard, but they have to race us, too.
“I’m excited about the next three races.”