In the fresh moments of victory lane after the conclusion to the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup was given some fire.
"He better be worried. That's all I've got to say," Winner Tony Stewart said in Victory Lane. "He's not going to sleep for the next three weeks."
With that one sound bite, Tony Stewart made his intentions clear to points leader Carl Edwards: I'm coming after you.
Since Stewart's move to Stewart-Haas Racing prior to beginning of the 2009 season, the once brash and volatile driver had almost become the very driver he despised for so long. Shying away from conflict, Stewart began saying all the right things and avoiding controversy. His production had also slipped on the racetrack, with many questioning if Stewart had spread himself too thin by taking on the responsibilities of ownership.
But since the start of the Chase, the one they call "Smoke" has smoked the competition, winning four of the eight races and firmly cementing himself as one of the drivers to beat. Now, after beating Edwards again this past Sunday in Texas, Stewart heads to Phoenix only three points back and with the Cup within his grasp.