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As painful as it may be, put yourself in Carl Edwards' shoes for a moment.
Despite recording the best average finish in Chase history and scoring the most points of any driver throughout the season, you just lost what would have been your first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on a tiebreaker.
A freakin' tiebreaker.
Of course, because of all the hype and the spotlight and your opponent's relentless trash talk, just about everyone wants to know what you think about losing.
So what do you say? Inside, the disappointment is probably crushing. It's probably the most difficult moment of your career.
But yet there you are, sitting in the media center facing the questions.
For most of us, it would have been agonizing to be in Edwards' shoes. And let's be honest – many NASCAR drivers would not have handled it well. At all.
The 2011 championship runnerup, though, couldn't have handled it any better.
"I told myself that the one thing I'm going to do is I'm going to walk back to that motorhome – win, lose or draw – and I'm going to be a good example for my kids and work hard and go be better next season," he said.
Edwards often gets accused of being fake or phony, because his aggressiveness and hard racing on the track clashes with his nice-guy personality off it. It's a tough dichotomy for people to accept.
But the Edwards who conducted a classy interview in a difficult moment on Sunday night couldn't have been more genuine.
"I'm telling you guys, this is how I feel," he said. "I'm not BS'ing you, this is me. I'm not going to go rip the door off my motorhome or freak out or anything.
"My true feeling right now, like my gut feeling in my heart, is that I'm just ‑‑ I'm obviously disappointed we didn't win. That would have been a spectacular result, OK? But I'm very proud. Some of the best races I've run in my life were in this Chase."
Edwards explained he thought through every scenario and, though losing to Stewart on a tiebreaker seemed unlikely, "I was prepared for this."
"There's Kipling's poem I can't remember the title of it, but he said, 'You have to meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same,'" Edwards said. "That's the truth. There's nothing saying that this loss here tonight won't spur a chain of events that could lead to some serious success in the future, and you guys are looking at someone who is not going to miss out on that."
What other drivers do you know who quote poetry to sum up their feelings in the face of a crippling defeat? But that's Edwards – cerebral, thoughtful, philosophical.
In his mind, he drove as hard as he could and there was nothing more he could have done. So, instead of whining or making excuses, he gave all the credit to his opponent.
"To be honest with you, I was very, very impressed with Tony," Edwards said. "I think that for all of the talk and all of the chest‑pounding that he did, I could see that he was he was nervous about this, too.
"I mean, they had to perform at a very high level, and I honestly thought that there was a good chance tonight of them making a mistake – of him over‑driving, trying too hard – and they showed a lot of mental toughness to watch us go lead the first half of this race essentially and not panic, not make mistakes."
Edwards didn't make a mistake either, though. And what he was most proud of was staying true to himself and not stooping to Stewart's level when his opponent lobbed barbs his way.
"I feel like personally, I passed the test," he said. "I didn't fall into the trap of the trash-talking and I didn't change the person I am to go compete at my highest level. I felt like I did it my way, and I'm proud of that."
Still don't believe Edwards is a genuine guy? Just ask Stewart.
After the race, Edwards walked up to Stewart's car, leaned in and said, "Just promise me one thing: You're going to have fun with this."
He then told Stewart he hoped the two drivers raced for the title again next year. It left an impression on Stewart.
"Everybody respects Carl for the person that he is," Stewart said. "There have been a lot of things that have happened that make you go, 'Is there sincerity involved in what he says?' But there were no cameras there when he said that – he just came and talked to me driver-to-driver. That says a lot about how he is as a person.
"I know there are times when he hasn't done everything perfect, when he's taken it upon himself to settle scores. But I think deep down, moments like that...it shows who he really is as a person."
Tony Stewart grabbed the spotlight as he scored the win and hoisted his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy.
Carl Edwards garnered much of the attention after leading the most laps and losing out on his first Cup championship in a tie-breaker.
However, 41 other competitors took part in Sunday's 2011 NASCAR season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Although they were unable to celebrate the championship or the win, they had some interesting things to say about the race and the championship battle.
Here is what some of the competition was saying after Sunday's race:
Martin Truex Jr. (finished third) on team's chances for 2012:
Well, I'm cautiously optimistic. At the end of the season last year, we felt good. We kind of ended similar. We were running well. Our cars were strong. We started this year off really good, but we had too many bumps in the road. We made too many mistakes.
Matt Kenseth (finished fourth):
It's crazy. I don't know how Carl could have put together a better 10 races. They took bad days and turned them into good days and did all they could, but Tony got on that tear and won all those races on different style racetracks.
I'm not sure how he made it there at the end on fuel, but he did. I thought it was Carl's, to be honest with you. He had tires and Tony didn't, and I thought he was gonna run him down, but he just couldn't quite catch him.
Jeff Gordon (finished fifth):
It's great for the sport and I think Tony is just one of the all-time greats and he proved that over these last 10 races and especially tonight. And it showed Carl what he is made of as well. I think that is awesome.
Look at the people standing up...they stuck around to see how this one was going to unfold. You thought he was down and out and then he came back and you really thought he wasn't sitting in the best position and he had to stretch the fuel and everything. And gosh if he didn't do that too. That is amazing.
Kasey Kahne (finished seventh):
It was good and it was fun passing cars and having a great car again. The guys did a ton of work today. We started off way too loose and we were loose every run and could go at the end. And then that final one, we got a little too tight so we finally went too far. It was still a good day, a good finish for us. The team guys were awesome. They brought a lot of great race cars to the track and nobody gave up and we were right there throughout the whole final three months.
Brad Keselowski (finished 20th), responding to a tweet:
@keselowski <--- biting my tongue (RT) @jeff_gluck: Seriously, though, could you have a classier runner-up in any sport? I've never covered one if there is.
David Ragan (finished 38th with a blown engine):
I think Carl probably has a real conservative piece. I doubt they will have any issues. Myself, Marcos and even Greg and AJ, not being in the Chase, we have a little R&D going on. We just got the short straw.
Kurt Busch (finished 34th):
I've never been so disappointed in my life. I think I missed a race once my rookie year and this almost tops that.
Tony Stewart's championship-winning crew chief, Darian Grubb, says he's been fired.
Grubb, speaking after he and Stewart won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title on Sunday night, said he was told prior to the Charlotte Chase race that he would not be welcomed back by Stewart-Haas Racing next season.
"I always wanted to stay with the organization," he said. "That's the reason I came here – to build something special."
The crew chief said "we'll see in this coming week how things change," but didn't sound optimistic he would be back.
Stewart ducked a question about Grubb's status and said, "I know what his status is for the rest of the night – I'm going to get him drunk."
Asked if it was possible Grubb would return to SHR next season, Stewart would not say.
"There's a lot of things in the offseason and a lot of decisions that have to be made," he said. "Obviously, we wanted to get through this championship battle first. We'll sit down as a group this week and figure out the direction of our program."
Told the news was baffling considering his team had just won the championship, Grubb agreed and said, "it still is to me, honestly."
Grubb seemed to leave the door open for a return to SHR if the team wanted him back. He said he's already been talking other teams and that the relationship between he and Stewart "was a little tough and strained" after he learned he'd been fired.
Would Grubb return to SHR if asked?
"It all depends," he said. "We'll just have to do those talks this week and see what happens."
Wow. What a Chase, right? Here are some more stats and notes from one of the greatest championship races in NASCAR history:
• Carl Edwards finished the Chase with the best average finish in the history of the 10-race playoff. His 4.9 average was better than Jimmie Johnson achieved in any of his five titles. And despite that, he lost (Stewart's average finish was 6.3, by the way).
• Though Tony Stewart entered the Chase with zero wins, his five victories ended up being a series-leading total for the entire season.
• Stewart put himself into an extremely exclusive club by winning his third NASCAR Cup title. Only nine drivers in NASCAR history have won three or more championships.
• This is the first time in NASCAR history the championship has been decided by a tiebreaker.
• Prior to last season, only two drivers in the modern era (1975) had overcome a points deficit heading into the last race to win the title. But in the last two years, it's happened twice – Jimmie Johnson beat Denny Hamlin in 2010, and now Stewart has beaten Edwards.
• This season marks the first time a champion has come from behind to win the title by winning the final race of the season. And only seven times has the NASCAR champion won the season finale at all (tonight would be No. 7).
• Though they may have been in different situations, Stewart became the first driver/owner to win a NASCAR Cup title since the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992.
• Stewart passed 118 cars under the green flag during Sunday's race.
• How good was this race? There were 26 lead changes and 15 different leaders. Both of those marks are Homestead-Miami Speedway track records.
The improbable happened Sunday night in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale as the 2011 Chase came down to a tiebreaker situation between championship contenders Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards.
While Edwards dominated Sunday's season finale, Stewart was able to fight back from multiple setbacks and score the win, tying Edwards for the lead in the final Chase standings.
With five wins in the Chase, including Sunday's race at Homestead, Stewart took the advantage in the tiebreaker, allowing him to earn his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five in the Chase standings, while Kurt and Kyle Busch fell to 11th and 12th in the Chase respectively.
Here is a look at the final point standings:
It's a surreal scene right now at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Tony Stewart is celebrating his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on the track about 100 yards away from my perch in the press box.
Just moments after Stewart pulled into the makeshift Victory Lane – a giant stage assembled quickly on the frontstretch like the set of a Super Bowl halftime show – the skies opened up and completely drenched the entire track.
Some fans ran for cover, but others – particularly those wearing the red of Stewart's sponsor, Office Depot – stayed and pushed their way toward the front of the grandstand.
The storm quickly dissipated, but it had amazing timing. If it had come even a few minutes earlier, the race would have been delayed for at least two hours – or possibly been stopped early.
Several veteran reporters in the press box were as in as much disbelief over tonight's developments, muttering words like "Unbelievable!" and "Amazing!"
And why not? There haven't been too many races like this in NASCAR history – and certainly not in the Chase era.
Stewart appeared to simply will his way to the championship and won it out of sheer determination. We're often told drivers can only make the car go so fast, but this night debunked that myth.
The driver they call "Smoke" just wanted it more. He did whatever it took on the restarts, making aggressive four-wide passes and other jaw-dropping moves.
And after he had early trouble – a hole in the grille and contact with David Reutimann – Stewart's confidence never wavered. During a rain delay with Edwards in front of him, he still kept up his barrage of trash talk.
Stewart's swagger and the way he won this championship will seal it in the history books as one of NASCAR's all-time great Chases – and even races.
Five wins in 10 races after having no victories the entire regular season. Actually tying in the point standings and having the championship decided on a tiebreaker.
It's unreal, incredible, epic, classic.
And the accolades for Stewart, Edwards, NASCAR and this Chase are just beginning.
Tony Stewart had the odds stacked against him multiple times throughout Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but overcame it all to score the win and his third series championship.
Despite setbacks early in the race, Stewart put himself in position and was able to take control of the race from the dominant Carl Edwards.
Restarting the race with 37 laps to go, Stewart made a bold move from the third spot to take the lead in a three-way battle with Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. While Stewart pulled away with the lead, Edwards did his best to chase his competition down.
Unable to do so, Stewart worked through traffic well, extending his lead throughout the final laps to score his fifth win of the 2011 Chase and earn his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
Although Edwards led the most laps, Stewart won the race and the pair tied in the final point standings. Stewart took the championship, however, thanks to his five wins on the season - all of which came in the Chase.
Here is how they finished:
NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup finale is in its final laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and the champion is anyone's guess.
Tony Stewart is playing the fuel-mileage game – or at least crew chief Darian Grubb is – and there is concern that Carl Edwards may have to pit one more time.
As of this update, there are 47 laps left and Edwards is ahead of Stewart by two points in the standings. Kyle Busch is leading, Stewart is fourth and Edwards is sixth.
Fuel-mileage races have been a common occurrence in NASCAR this year, so it's not surprising it may decide the championship.
Aside from the fuel issue, the NASCAR Chase finale has exceeded the hype in many ways. Stewart has been driving with unbelievable determination and aggressiveness to overcome several setbacks, but Edwards has been consistent throughout the night.
No matter what happens in the final laps, it's likely this Chase – and this race – will go down in NASCAR history as one of the most memorable battles.
After a one-hour, 14-minute delay to dry the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway after a rain shower, the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup season finale got back underway with roughly 150 laps remaining.
All of the drivers made a pit stop after the red flag was lifted, Carl Edwards lost the lead and came off pit road third. Tony Stewart, his championship rival, moved up from fifth to fourth.
That allowed Stewart to jump to second place on the restart and move ahead of Edwards for the first time today.
With 150 laps to go, Jeff Gordon leads, followed by Stewart and Edwards.
It just took one brief downpour to put NASCAR's final race under an extended red flag. Looking at radar, there's not much out there. If you follow me here or on Twitter you've heard me say, "It's not the rain you see but the rain you don't that you have to worry about" and this is the case this evening.
Personally I think once we get this race restarted we are good. The odds of an another isolated shower to hit Homestead-Miami Speedway is around 10 to 20 percent. I don't feel like we see another one but that doesn't mean we won't. I'll keep you updated.
SUNDAY EVENING FORECAST:
6:00 p.m EST
Sprint Cup Race – Patchy Clouds, isolated threat of a shower – temp: 76
7:00 p.m EST
Sprint Cup Race – Patchy Clouds, isolated threat of a shower – temp: 77
8:00 p.m EST
Sprint Cup Race – Patchy Clouds, isolated threat of a shower – temp: 77
A brief but strong rain shower swept across Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday afternoon, interrupting NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup finale on lap 109.
When the race restarts, there will be 158 laps remaining.
Points leader Carl Edwards has dominated the race so far, and is currently the leader. Tony Stewart, who had early trouble with damage from debris and then contact with David Reutimann, has rebounded to fifth place.
Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are also among the top five in the running order.
Tony Stewart has already encountered trouble twice in the early laps of today's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Stewart hit an unidentified piece of debris sometime in the first 13 laps of the race, and he had to spend significant time on pit road repairing a hole in his grille.
Under caution, the team put a new piece of fencing on the grille and sent Stewart back out to the track, where he stayed on the lead lap but restarted 40th. The driver then worked his way through the field, only to accidentally run into the back of David Reutimann and sustain even more damage.
Stewart's crew fixed his No. 14 car again, and Stewart had to drop to the back and start another rally.
After restarting in the mid-30s, though, Stewart is currently back up to 13th place at lap 65.
Chase leader Carl Edwards has had no problems at all. He's currently leading the race and has led more laps than any driver so far today.
After 35 races and a marathon season that began in February, NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway is underway.
Chase points leader Carl Edwards started the race from the pole position, while two-time champion Tony Stewart (who trails by just three points) started 15th.
Because Edwards led the first lap, he immediately picked up a bonus point and extended his lead to four points. In NASCAR's new points system, each point equals one position on the racetrack.
If the two drivers are tied in points after today's race, Stewart would win the tiebreaker over Edwards because he has more wins on the season (four) than Edwards does (one).
Today's race is 400 miles, which is 267 laps around the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway. The event also marks the end of Jimmie Johnson's reign as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion after an unprecedented five-year run.
Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five starters.
It's race day at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and the 2011 Sprint Cup season comes down to this last race with only three points separating the the final two contenders. We have heard all week that "nothing will stand in the way" for either Tony Stewart or Carl Edwards when it comes to winning 2011 Sprint Cup.
But the only thing that could "stand in their way" is something neither Edwards or Stewart can control – the weather.
Mother Nature has had some fun with NASCAR this season and she would be a very unwelcomed guest if she brought rain to NASCAR's final party.
Here's the good news: It appears she will end the season being a fan of NASCAR. The forecast for Sunday looks similar to what we saw Saturday at Homestead – clouds and sunshine with gusty winds. Temperatures will be comfortable near 75-80 degrees.
There is just a small chance of an isolated shower. Winds have been coming onshore all weekend, and we have seen, on occasion, a few small showers form from this flow off the Atlantic. This is why I mention an isolated threat of showers. The threat is very low and seems very unlikely, but it still needs to be mention.
This has been another great season. I want to thank Jeff Gluck and SB Nation for giving me a place I can provide NASCAR fans with an accurate weather forecast each and every NASCAR weekend.
It is truly a labor of love and I want all of you who check this forecast every week that I do it for you the fans. I want you all to have the best information you can. My goal is a perfect forecast every week. Sometimes it happens and other times it's a near miss. I truly appreciate the support here and over on Twitter. Thank you once again and here is to an even better 2012!
11:00 a.m EST
Sprint Cup Pre-race – Partly sunny, gusty winds, isolated threat of a shower – temp: 80
1:00 p.m EST
Sprint Cup Pre-race – Partly sunny, gusty winds, isolated threat of a shower – temp: 81
3:00 p.m EST
Sprint Cup Race – Windy, Partly Sunny, small threat of an isolated shower – temp: 80
The final race of the NASCAR season is today at Homestead-Miami Speedway and we've got the actual race start time, the starting lineup and some other facts about the Chase for the Sprint Cup finale for you below.
What time does the race start today? The Homestead start time is a bit later than most Chase races have been, because NASCAR and ESPN want the final race of the season to end close to prime time on the East Coast – and under the lights. The command to start engines will be given by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden at 3:12 p.m. Eastern time. The green flag will then wave at 3:20 p.m. Eastern. So if you want to tune in for the actual race itself and skip the pre-race show, just tune in at 3:20.
Race name/distance: The Ford 400 is 267 laps around the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, which is 400 miles. Ford sponsors Homestead's "championship weekend" by putting its name on all three series finales at the track.
TV and radio: Today's race can be seen on ESPN. If you aren't near a TV, the radio broadcast can be found on your local Motor Racing Network (MRN) affiliate. Click here to see a list of stations where you can listen.
National anthem: If you watched American Idol last season, you should be familiar with Pia Toscano, who is singing today's anthem. Toscano was shockingly voted out far too early (in this writer's opinion) and had one of the best voices on Idol. She should do a great job with the anthem.
Tickets: The race has not been announced as a sellout, so you should be safe if you want to try and drive down to Homestead for a last-minute trip today. You'll be able to get tickets at face value from the ticket office.
Weather: C'mon...it's Florida! The whole weekend has been a combination of warm, muggy, breezy and occasionally rainy – which is typical for South Florida. The unofficial NASCAR weatherman says conditions should be warm and breezy with highs in the lower 80s. But there's also a chance of scattered showers, he says.
Last time: Carl Edwards won his second Homestead race in the last three years and set the stage for a fantastic 2011 season. If you're wondering, Tony Stewart finished eighth in that race.
Starting lineup for today's NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Chase contenders in bold):
Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth met with NASCAR on Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway to discuss racing incidents at Martinsville and, most recently, Phoenix.
Both drivers came away satisfied with the meeting, as did NASCAR.
"We let them talk about it," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. "We listened, and then also told them what we expected from them at the racetrack. I think there's a clear understanding of that; I think we made our point."
Each driver had an opportunity to explain their side of the incidents, with Vickers clarifying his comments from last week that his actions were unintentional.
Vickers told SB Nation on Saturday that the initial contact was innocent, but acknowledged driving Kenseth into the wall.
"Last week at Phoenix was a situation where he lifted and braked 10 car lengths early," Vickers said. "He said he did in the meeting. He can't say he didn't – it was on the in-car camera. You brake 10 car lengths early with someone right on your bumper, and you're going to get hit.
"Now, after that, was I pissed and did I finish the job? Yeah."
Vickers insisted he did not come off Turn 2 with the intention to make any kind of contact with Kenseth. The No. 83 car was capable of winning the race, Vickers said, and the driver did not want to mess that up in the name of revenge.
But once Kenseth pulled up in front of him and the two made contact, Vickers changed his mind.
"After my nose was knocked in because a guy stopped on me 10 car lengths early in the middle of the straightaway, OK, the rest is another story," Vickers said. "But that doesn't change the fact I didn't set out to tear up a good race car."
Vickers said he watched the replay and admitted "it looks pretty bad." But he insisted he would still have made the initial contact with the car in front of him, "even if that was my best friend."
Driving him into the wall, though, was because of their Martinsville history.
"I'm not saying what I did was right or wrong, but it was no different than what he did (at Martinsville)," Vickers said. "Even if what he said is true – and I'm not saying that – it's still no different."
Asked if he accepted Vickers' explanation, Kenseth indicated he was simply ready to get the situation behind him.
"It doesn't really matter that much how it all got started," he said. "We met with NASCAR and all that, so I think we're just ready to move forward."
Kenseth said there were things both drivers said in the meeting they still don't totally agree on, but added, "We're both going to move on and get back to racing."
Said Vickers: "Everybody put their perspectives on the table. I'm good with it. I want to get back to racing hard, having fun. And he said the same."
In related news, Vickers said he still doesn't know where he'll be driving next season, but said he was "close on a couple things" that would keep him in the Sprint Cup Series.
"But in my mind, honestly, close means nothing," he said. "I've seen some really great close deals not happen."
Chase leader Carl Edwards has a golden opportunity to extend his advantage over Tony Stewart as soon as the green flag drops on Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Edwards won the pole for the Ford 400 on Saturday, the only driver to top 175 mph in qualifying. The Roush Fenway Racing driver's championship rival, Tony Stewart, will start 15th.
"Things are good," Edwards said after his lap. "Today went really well. I felt like our car was really fast in race trim. I wasn't sure what to expect in qualifying trim, but that was a pleasant surprise."
Martin Truex Jr. will start alongside Edwards, but if the latter driver can win the first lap, he'll score a crucial bonus point that would immediately extend his advantage to four points over Stewart.
"It's definitely a luxury for him at this point," Stewart said, "but don't start etching his name on the trophy yet."
Both drivers know they might need every point.
"It looked like there were a lot of fast cars in practice, and it didn't look like we were head and shoulders faster than everybody else," Edwards said. "If there are faster race cars out there, they'll be able to make it through the field."
Stewart seemed to brush off his qualifying effort and claimed he was actually pleased with the result – since he's not typically known as a good qualifier.
The two teams differed in their strategy during Saturday's practice sessions, with Stewart working on race setup and Edwards focusing much on qualifying setup.
Said Stewart: "They're either going to look like geniuses doing it or they're not."
Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five. Those five cars will get to select the first few pit stalls, which could prove key should the race come down to a late pit stop.
"We've still got to go run this race, and I know how tough those (Stewart) can be," Edwards said. "We're just going to keep our heads down and work hard. If anything, this is good for our morale."
Stewart warned fans and media not to jump to conclusions over Edwards' fast day.
"He put up a fast lap," Stewart said. "(But) his lap times fell off pretty hard in the one long run that he did."
Here is the starting lineup for Sunday's NASCAR Chase finale at Homestead:
If Austin Dillon brings the No. 3 into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series over the next year or two, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is cool with it.
The son of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – who made the '3' famous – said he doesn't believe numbers are tied to drivers as much as he believes in the legacy of numbers as a whole.
"The number is more of a bank that you just deposit history into," Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "It doesn't really belong to any individual."
Richard Childress, who owned Earnhardt Sr.'s car, recently said he would bring the No. 3 along with Dillon into the Nationwide Series next season. Dillon is one of Childress' grandsons and won the Camping World Truck Series championship on Friday.
But Childress also said he would not bring the '3' into the Cup series with the same slanted style as Earnhardt's number.
Earnhardt Jr. said it would be unfair to deny Dillon the opportunity to keep running the No. 3 since the latter driver has run it since he was young.
Dillon has said he drives a No. 3 to honor his grandfather, who also drove it.
"When you put the colors and the style with it, it's a little iconic to the sport," Earnhardt Jr. said. "But Austin is a good kid, he seems to have a great appreciation for what's happening to him and what's going on around him. I would be happy if he wanted to keep doing that."
Earnhardt Jr. said Dillon must have known some controversy might swirl around the decision to run a No. 3 car as he progressed in NASCAR's ranks, but gave his blessing to the move.
"It's got to get back on the racetrack one of these days," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It can't be gone forever."
The final Sprint Cup Series practice session of the season couldn't have gone any better for Chase leader Carl Edwards.
Edwards ran just three laps, but was easily the fastest car during Homestead-Miami Speedway's Happy Hour practice, posting an average lap of 171.124 mph.
David Ragan, Edwards' Roush Fenway Racing teammate, was second-fastest at 170.913 mph. But Chase contender Tony Stewart, who goes into Sunday's finale trailing Edwards by three points, was 28th on the practice chart.
Stewart ran 52 laps during the practice session – tied for the most of any driver.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been fastest in the first practice, but Edwards (who was second-fastest in the first session) is a strong threat to win the pole later today.
It's hard to tell based on practice times whether or not Stewart is in trouble, but being in the mid-20s is certainly not a positive. Stewart, though, was close to Edwards in the first session based on his 10-lap average.
Qualifying begins at 2:40 p.m. Eastern time.
Unlike most NASCAR drivers who move to Charlotte, Carl Edwards still lives in his home state of Missouri. And his legion of supporters in Columbia are pulling hard for their favorite son.
Check out this video from Columbia. It even features one of Edwards' former teachers (complete with a grade school yearbook photo).
Rain was a problem for NASCAR at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday, but it looks like Saturday and Sunday could be a little better. I am not going to keep rain totally out of the forecast, but there will be more dry time than wet in my professional opinion.
Few scattered showers are possible during the morning hours Saturday. This would not be good for the Sprint Cup drivers as they are making up Friday's schedule Saturday morning. The good news is the likelihood of these scattered showers decreases after 7am EST in the morning.
Although there could be a slight chance of an isolated shower or two, the rest of the weekend, the threat of showers like Friday are less and less. The weekend forecast for both Saturday and Sunday feature sunshine and clouds and an isolated shower or two with highs near 80.
9:30 a.m EST
Sprint Cup Practice – Sun and clouds, Scattered shower – temp: 77
11:30 a.m EST
Sprint Cup Final Practice – Breezy, Partly Sunny, isolated shower – temp: 80
1:00 p.m EST
Nationwide Qualifying – Breezy, Partly Sunny, isolated shower – temp: 80
2:30 p.m EST
Sprint Qualifying – Breezy, Partly Sunny, isolated shower – temp: 81
4:30 p.m EST
Nationwide Race – Breezy, Partly Sunny, isolated shower – temp: 80
3 p.m EST
Sprint Cup Race – Breezy, partly sunny, isolated shower – temp: 83
We'll have to wait a day to get our first hints as to whether Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart has a faster car at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Storm cells swept across South Florida on Friday, with several causing heavy downpours at Homestead. As a result, no Sprint Cup Series cars ever made it onto the track.
NASCAR moved two practices to Saturday morning, with a 90-minute session beginning at 9:30 a.m. local time and a one-hour session at 11:30.
Following the practices, Sprint Cup Series qualifying will be held at 2:40 p.m.
Officials have hopes that the Camping World Truck Series finale, scheduled for tonight, could still take place as scheduled.
The Homestead-Miami Speedway revised NASCAR schedule (all times Eastern):
8 p.m. (or when the track is dry) – Camping World Truck Series race
9:30 a.m. – Sprint Cup Series practice (90 minutes)
11:30 a.m. – Sprint Cup Series final practice (60 minutes)
1:05 p.m. – Nationwide Series qualifying
2:40 p.m. – Sprint Cup Series qualifying
4:30 p.m. – Nationwide Series race
3 p.m – Sprint Cup Series race
Brad Keselowski expressed regret Friday for being too harsh in recent comments about NASCAR's move to electronic fuel injection, which earned him a secret fine from the sanctioning body.
But the outspoken driver also vowed not to change his candid ways – though perhaps he might tone down the rhetoric next time, he said.
"That moment where I didn't use probably the highest level of discretion with my words was an authentic moment," he told reporters Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "... If anything, I'll probably be smarter – not necessarily quieter."
Keselowski said he could have been honest about his views on EFI without being so "confrontational." He didn't agree with the fine, but said he wasn't surprised by it.
"It was my intention to be open and honest and share at what was a fan event how I felt with the fans and what I felt was the best interest of the sport," he said. "Obviously, that contradicted someone else's thoughts.
"I'll be honest: I thought what I said was edgy, but I didn't feel it was that edgy."
Ryan Newman would do many things for his boss, Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart.
But he won't go easy on Stewart and let the No. 14 pass him for valuable points if the two are racing for the win late in Sunday's race.
"I am not going to pull over for him and he would not pull over for me," Newman said Friday. "We are not raised that way."
Stewart enters Sunday's season finale trailing Chase leader Carl Edwards by three points. And while Newman said he would "do everything I can to help him," he distinguished assisting Stewart from making a "sacrifice for myself, for my team, for the US Army."
In Newman's mind, letting another driver have a win – even if it's a teammate racing for a championship – would not be "the right way of racing."
"I don't think Tony would see it that way, or if the roles were reversed would I expect him to do the same thing for me," Newman said.
So if Newman was holding up Stewart late in the race, would Newman expect Stewart to wreck him? After all, Stewart said Thursday he'd wreck his own mother to win a championship.
"If he needed to, yeah," Newman said as reporters laughed. "... Do what you have to do, man. In the end, he owns my race car, so whatever he wants to do is fair game."
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France wants drivers to continue to express themselves and show personality, but vowed to continue issuing fines if any of them criticize the sport itself.
"When you cross a line that denigrates the direction of the sport or the quality of the racing, we're not going to accept that," France told reporters Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "Not going to accept it. Happy to have any other criticism, any other complaint, happy to hear them all."
The NASCAR media grilled France on several issues, but most notably on the purpose of secret fines after Brad Keselowski was penalized for anti-fuel injection comments recently.
France said drivers would continue to be fined because it was like a restaurant owner telling the public, "You know what? The food in my restaurant is not very good."
So if drivers aren't allowed to criticize the direction of the sport or the quality of the racing, what can they criticize?
"They are perfectly fine to criticize anything we do, any call we make," he said. "They can say they don't like (the call), they disagree with it. We didn't make the right call – that's fine. But we're not going to let anyone denigrate the sport, and that's going to continue."
As for why NASCAR refused to publicize the fines, France asked what the benefit would be. He said drivers already know what is expected of them, so there's no purpose in making the fines common knowledge.
"When they don't handle that, the only way we can control that is obviously a fining system," he said.
France dismissed the idea fans would think NASCAR has many coverups or conspiracies and said, "We've never been more transparent."
But have there been more secret fines we don't know about? "There could be," he said.
As the barrage of questions went on, France hinted NASCAR could review its policy in the offseason.
"Look, don't panic over this," he told reporters. "If we need to change it, we'll change it. Not a big deal."
Other topics addressed by France:
• NASCAR wants to eliminate two-car drafts at Daytona and Talladega. "We would prefer to eliminate tandem racing in the manner it exists today," France said. "There is no question about that. ... I think the majority of fans would like to see that and so would we."
• France doesn't need to be at every race like his father and grandfather were in order to manage the sport, he said. "If I thought I was the last one out of every event and I turn the light off on the way out that that would grow the sport in some way, I would do it," he said. "What we have is a different sport than it was 10, 15 years ago, and that's real clear. I don't publish my schedule, but it's pretty busy. We know we're managing the sport the best way that we need to to grow the sport."
• NASCAR's "emphasis on winning" has made a difference in competition, but officials can only do so much. "Clearly we cannot make winning the only thing," he said. "There are 43 teams racing at every weekend. However, we can make sure that we emphasize that. We can make sure that we reward that. And we're pretty happy that that translates into better racing."
Your NASCAR weather forecast for Homestead-Miami Speedway is dry overall, but there is just a small chance for an isolated shower or two over the weekend.
I think most of the weekend stays dry, but a lone shower or two can't be ruled out. It doesn't look like anything that would wash out the weekend, though.
9:00 a.m EST
Nationwide Practice – Breezy, Mostly cloudy, Chc. of a shower – temp: 74
10:30 a.m EST
Truck Final Practice – Breezy, Mostly cloudy, Chc. of a shower – temp: 77
12:30 p.m ET
Nationwide Final Practice – Breezy, Mostly cloudy, Chc. of a shower – temp: 79
3:00 p.m ET
Sprint Practice – Breezy, Mostly cloudy, Chc. of a shower – temp: 78
4:30 p.m ET
Truck Qualifying – Breezy, Mostly cloudy, Chc. of a shower – temp: 76
6:00 p.m ET
Sprint Final Practice – Breezy, Mostly cloudy, Chc. of a shower – temp: 74
8:00 p.m ET
Truck Race – Breezy, Mostly cloudy, Chc. of a shower – temp: 73
1:00 p.m EST
Nationwide Qualifying – Breezy, Clouds, Some sun, scattered shower – temp: 80
2:30 p.m EST
Sprint Qualifying – Breezy, Clouds, Some sun, scattered shower – temp: 81
4:30 p.m EST
Nationwide Race – Breezy, Clouds, Some sun, scattered shower – temp: 80
3 p.m EST
Sprint Cup Race – Breezy, partly sunny, isolated shower – temp: 83
You were stuck at work and weren't able to watch Thursday's NASCAR Championship Contenders press conference in South Beach.
That's cool. We get it.
Never fear, though: We've broken down an hour's worth of Tony Stewart vs. Carl Edwards interviews into a few tasty nuggets for you to digest.
Here's the trash talk scorecard. Read the comments below and see if you agree with our score:
Stewart: I'd wreck my mom to win a championship. ... I respect him as a driver, but this isn't about friendships this weekend. This is a war. This is a battle. This is for a national championship. It's no holds barred this weekend. I didn't come this far to be one step away from it and let it slip away, so we're going to go for it.
Edwards (pretends he didn't listen): Did you say something?
Stewart: Yeah – you can come visit my trophy in the room at Vegas when you come out there.
Edwards: He's got the talking part figured out. Problem is, you haven't led the points yet this year, have you?
Stewart: They say there's talkers and doers. I've done this (won a championship) twice.
Edwards: That's the funny thing. I've listened to you talk a lot today. You've talked a lot about your past successes. That is very respectable. And truly, all joking aside, that will make it more fun if we're able to beat you. It will make me more proud.
POINT: Stewart. SCORE: Stewart 1, Edwards 0.
Edwards: I'm not really buying it. ... I mean, if you're asking me to believe that he doesn't go to bed thinking, 'Man, I want to win this thing as bad as anyone,' I don't believe that.
Stewart: We don't have anything to lose. I mean, we literally don't. There's nothing that we can lose this weekend no matter what happens on the racetrack. We just don't have anything to lose. So I think when you got a guy that has something to lose, has a little to lose, then you got to worry about that a little bit.
POINT: Edwards. SCORE: Stewart 1, Edwards 1.
Stewart: I've not talked to (his racing hero and friend A.J.) Foyt. He'll call me after we win on Sunday. ... It's like Kid Rock said: 'It's not cocky if you back it up.' I think we've been backing it up the last three weeks. It's what our intention is.
POINT: Stewart. SCORE: Stewart 2, Edwards 1.
Edwards: When I go to bed at night, I don't worry about sponsors, I don't worry about women, I don't worry about money, I don't worry about anything but going as fast as I can go. I just go out there and race.
Stewart: (Shakes head, laughs)
POINT: Edwards. SCORE: Stewart 2, Edwards 2.
Stewart: I'm alright being a single guy without a wife and a family right now. (Carl) gets to think about one of them, I get to think about all of them. It makes it a lot more fun.
I don't have to worry about (women). If I don't want to be around one, I can go home. He has to be with (wife Kate) whether he wants to be around her or not.
POINT: Stewart. SCORE: Stewart 3, Edwards 2.
Stewart: I had an Office Depot appearance on Tuesday, and they served roast duck in honor of us beating Carl this weekend.
POINT: Stewart. SCORE: Stewart 4, Edwards 2.
Stewart: I think he's doing a pretty good acting job up there today. I think he's a lot more nervous than he lets on. He's got a lot of class and a lot of character, and he's a strong person – but I don't think he's as strong as he wants to lead everybody to believe he is going into this weekend.
.... You're lying if you're saying there's no pressure on you after 10 weeks of being up there and trying to win your first championship. It's a lot easier to relax when you're winning races, (and) we've won two out of the last three and finished third.
POINT: Stewart. SCORE: Stewart 5, Edwards 2.
Edwards: (Tony) has to be a little nervous – he's got a lot on his plate, got a lot of things going on. It would be abnormal for either of us not to be a little wound up about this thing and a little excited about it.
(The trash talk) is fun for you guys to talk about, but racing has a funny way of humbling people and just working out regardless of what's said. You can do all the talking in the world, whatever you want – but you get in that race car, and every one of us knows it's just based on how fast you go and what decisions you make.
FINAL TRASH TALK COMPETITION SCORE: Stewart 5, Edwards 3.
The 2011 NASCAR Chase has played out much differently for title contenders Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.
While Edwards has taken the consistent approach during the first nine races, he has held onto the points lead without a victory in the Chase. Stewart, on the other hand, has four wins in the Chase and still trails.
Despite criticism from some, both Edwards and Stewart complimented the new system put in place at the beginning of the season.
"The point system is good," Stewart said. "It's easy to look at that and say it's not good because of that fact, but what you have to understand is that unlike other sports where it's two teams against each other, it's 43 teams and it's a 10-race Chase, and you accumulate points for 10 weeks."
With an average finish of 5.2 so far in the Chase, Edwards pointed out his team has not been trying to "cruise along."
"We've done our best," Edwards said. "We've performed very well, even on the days when it didn't stack up in our favor, we had some pretty big hills to climb."
Some have been critical of the new system, arguing Edwards' consistent approach is proof there is not enough emphasis on winning. Stewart, however, disagrees.
"The fact we won four races doesn't mean we should be ahead of Carl," he said. "We did not do our job in some of the other races that got us behind. But because of the point system and the bonus points for winning we were able to catch up and gain those points back."
Regardless of the criticism, this year's championship battle is the closest in Chase history and one that will be long-remembered. Is the new point system to thank for that? Or just good racing?
"Whatever point system we've got, over time you're going to have close battles, you'll have some that aren't so close, and I think all of us are just fortunate that it's close this year and it's exciting," Edwards said.
The 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup is shaping up to be among the sport's best championship battles, thanks to Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.
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