Today’s race at Homestead should be one heck of a battle, as Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart decide on who wins the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
To those who haven’t been watching, Edwards leads Stewart by just three points. These two drivers have been running close for the past several weeks. Two weeks ago, Stewart won at Texas with Edwards right behind in second. Last week at Phoenix, Edwards finished second, but Stewart finished third and let the most laps in the race.
I expect the same thing to happen at Homestead. These two guys are going to be gunning for that championship, running neck-and-neck throughout the race. And no matter who wins the championship, either way, NASCAR and its fans win.
I’ve seen time and time again on message boards. Everyone is sick of Jimmie Johnson, who’s won the past 5 championships… in a row. He and that #48 team have created a dynasty we haven’t seen since the days of Jeff Gordon, the very man who brought him into Hendrick Motorsports in the first place. But now that he’s been mathematically eliminated for some time, his reign has come to an end… at least until next season.
But to those that don’t happen to not like Edwards nor Stewart (or you’re just a Johnson diehard), let me tell you why this is good.
Why Edwards winning is good:
- Youth – Okay, so at 32, Edwards isn’t exactly a spring chicken, but his youthful and athletic appearance is a stark comparison to Johnson and Stewart. People want the youth to rise up and win both races and championships. Well, they’ve won the races, but a young gun hasn’t won a Cup championship since the early days of Jeff Gordon. This year may be Edwards’ best chance to win.
- Popularity & Sponsors – He’s popular amongst NASCAR fans and is a sponsor’s dream. Next year, he’ll be sponsored by Aflac, Fastenal, and UPS… and that’s just in the Cup Series. He’s appeared in several television series. He’s been on the cover of magazines like ESPN and Men’s Health. Edwards serves as a cover boy for the sport, and him winning the championship will certainly help NASCAR.
- Consistency – Though he only has 1 win, Edwards has the most top 5s (18) and top 10s (25) of anyone else in the standings. Stewart only has 8 top 5s and 18 top 10s. Typically, winning the Cup championship has almost always been about consistency (just ask Matt Kenseth). By that logic, Edwards should win.
Why Stewart winning is good:
- Winning and Performing In The Chase – Though it took him until the Chase to actually win races, Tony Stewart has won 4 races in the Chase, tied alongside Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch for most this season. Not only that, but outside of Dover, Stewart has been the best performer and is taking risks; he’s pushing the envelope to win this thing, while Edwards, while finishing well, has seemed to follow a more conservative approach.
- Being an Owner/Driver – The last time an owner/driver won the championship was Alan Kulwicki back in 1992. In addition, there aren’t really and owner/drivers in NASCAR as there used to be. Robby Gordon owns a team in Cup, but he’s been allowing others to race in his #7 car. Waltrip owns a team, but he only races on the restrictor-plate tracks. Kevin Harvick Inc. has been very succesful in the Truck and Nationwide Series, but they are merging with Richard Childress and won’t field a car in any of the divisions next year. Kyle Busch owns a Truck team but has had trouble getting sponsorships. If Stewart can win a championship, it’s not only a feel-good story, but also shows that owner/drivers do have what it takes to field succesful teams and that sponsors should invest money with them.
Either way, I don’t mind having these guys win the championship. Both of these guys have proven their worth on the racetrack. They win races, they’re popular amongst fans, and after 5 years of Johnson owning the Cup Series, there will at least be some parity towards this season.
The 2011 season, in my opinion has been a success. The point system, while still slightly flawed, has created a more exciting setup, and is the reason why with one race to go, this Chase has been so close.
NASCAR fans, get ready, today is going to be real exciting, no matter whose side you’re on.