COMPLETE AAA TEXAS 500 RESULTS
AAA Texas 500 Recap
If the Chase wasn’t a two man heavyweight fight coming into Texas it certainly is leaving the Lone Star State.
Carl Edwards leads Tony Stewart by only three points after Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 and with just a pair of races remaining it promises to be a knock down, dragged out fight to Homestead.
Stewart has put together a Chase run of epic proportions, coming into the playoffs winless through the 26-race regular season and now with four victories in eight races.
He’s a man on a mission and spoke like one in victory lane at TMS.
“I told you guys that last week, nobody listens to me when I talk anymore,” a confident Stewart proclaimed. “No, I mean we are set on it man, this is just the way it is going to be.”
Stewart tied Jimmie Johnson’s record of four Chase wins in a single season with his performance on Sunday and seems ready to both break that mark as well as be the driver who ends the five-time champions’s title streak.
“Well, if you can do simple math, you can figure out that we gained over half of it in one week and we have two weeks to go,” said Stewart, who whittled Edwards’ advantage to just three points. “It does not take much right now, it is one spot if a guy wins the race, we are doing exactly what we need to do, I am really confident right now.”
But so is Edwards.
Despite still not winning in the Chase, Edwards continues to do what wins NASCAR championships – be consistent.
His second place effort kept his average over the first eight races of the playoffs to just a hair over five and Edwards sees no reason why that won’t continue for the next two weeks.
Edwards doesn’t underestimate Stewart’s worthiness as a championship contender but has more than enough confidence in his ability and team as well.
“I think we're very fortunate to have led the points for as long as we have this season,” said Edwards, who scored his lone win this season in Las Vegas back in March. “I think the guys, I know myself, have a certain comfort level with it. We've watched the guys make runs at us and then fall away.
“At the end of the day it truly doesn't matter what the 14 team does or what Tony does or what anyone else does. All we can do is just go do the best we can do. It might feel comfortable to them to be the position they're in, to be gaining points. But truly the past is history. We've got to go out and run these next two races. Yeah, I don't underestimate them for a second. I know how good they are. But we're going to be good, as well.”
Stewart got the biggest headline with victory number four of the Chase but Edwards held serve and leaves Texas with the Chase point lead. It won’t bother Edwards one bit if he hangs on to score a career first Sprint Cup title if he goes winless over the final ten races of the season. To his credit he charged as hard as possible on Sunday only to come up one spot short of victory lane but still wound up doing what he needed to do..
He cooled off a little in the last two weeks but Kahne was again impressive in Texas hanging near the front of the field and staying in contention for the win. There’s still nothing firm about Team Red Bull’s future but potential investors have to be taking notice of what Kahne and Kenny Francis continue to accomplish under very difficult circumstances.
Martin Truex Jr.
It wasn’t the best week PR-wise for Michael Waltrip Racing with the way the David Reutimann release went down and the announcement Mark Martin would join the organization next season for a limited schedule. Some question whether MWR can be a legitimate Chase contender next year and Truex Jr.’s performance Sunday was an example of what this team can accomplish.
NASCAR’s decision to park Busch for the remainder of the Texas weekend after his truck series race tangle with Ron Hornaday may turn out to be the turning point of Busch’s career. The ramifications of not earning any points in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race may be the least of Busch’s problems who still faces the wrath of team owner Joe Gibbs, sponsor M&M’s and perhaps more sanctions from NASCAR before this chapter of his tumultuous career comes to a close.
His run to end last season on a strong note is a faded memory. Logano had a miserable day Sunday that ended up with a thirty-seventh place finish. Between Busch’s issues and the way Logano and his teammate Denny Hamlin ran in Texas, you would not blame Joe Gibbs Racing for hoping these next two weeks go by as fast as possible to put a merciful end to 2011.
The storybook season is just about finished after Keselowski had problems on pit road with Ryan Newman’s team that sent the No. 2 Dodge into Hamlin and leaving the Penske driver with a damaged mount. Keselowski was credited with a twenty-seventh place finish in Texas but is now reduced to the role of championship spoiler.
(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)
"I don't know, man. You're going to have to call this. I can't do it." – Tony Stewart to crew chief Darian Grubb regarding a two of four tire pit decision.
"We used to be fast. We need to figure something out." – Joey Logano
“Tell the 11 I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking…tell Ryan to wait til the next time he needs a break because he’s going around.” – Brad Keselowski after his pit road misadventures
"Your top is better than his bottom." – Jeff Gordon’s spotter regarding his line compared to Kasey Kahne
On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 a three. There wasn’t any of the sideshow activities that marked last November’s visit to Texas and unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of side-by-side racing either. The first two thirds of the race were pretty sedate and pretty typical mile-and-a-half competition. Business did pick up in the final stages with Jeff Burton’s fuel strategy and the Stewart-Edwards battle on track and in the standings. But there wasn’t as much drama as many hoped for in what has been a pretty interesting Chase so far.
Down the Road
Talladega was considered the Chase wild card race that is until they decided to repave and reconfigure Phoenix International Raceway. All of the sudden the venerable one-mile desert track has been transformed into a brand new speedway that is wider and much faster than its predecessor. There was a two day test about a month ago but basically teams are going into the second to last race of the championship schedule without any idea how to prepare for next Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500. Now that’s what I’d call a real wild card.
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