Carl Edwards Shows Class After Defeat In NASCAR Chase Finale At Homestead-Miami Speedway

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.

RELATED: NASCAR Homestead results (full running order)

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."

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