NASCAR Sprint Cup Title at Homestead: 5 Reasons Carl Edwards Has the Advantage
The Ford Nice Guy against the sometimes cantankerous owner/driver.
Only one driver will emerge victorious with the title of NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Sunday evening at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The title fight has never been closer heading into NASCAR's season finale. Edwards leads Stewart by the slimmest of margins, a mere three points—three positions on the track, or less than the points differential between first place and second.
Who will be Sprint Cup champion come Sunday evening?
Here are five reasons to believe Carl Edwards is the man to get the job done.
5. Edwards Is the Defending Race Winner
Few things can be as nerve-wracking in sports as being in the midst of a close title fight.
But few things can give as much confidence to such a driver as being the last one to win at the track where the championship will be decided.
Luckily for Edwards, that's the position he is in at Homestead. The No. 99 flat-out dominated last season's finale, leading 190 of 267 laps. If anything like that performance is in store for Carl Edwards, the championship will be his.
4. Edwards Has Learned from His 2008 Near-Miss
In 2008, Carl Edwards gave Jimmie Johnson a run for his money.
He ultimately came up short, his title hopes undone by a wreck he himself caused at Talladega.
This year, Edwards has turned the tables, doing to the field what Johnson has done for the last five years. By keeping his cool and not making any banzai moves (like his attempted last-lap pass at Kansas in 2008), Edwards has avoided catastrophic finishes and his consistency is paying off.
Three years after his first real championship battle, Edwards is better prepared for the rigors and pressures he is currently facing. He's mentally and psychologically prepared to win a championship and won't come unglued in the finale like Denny Hamlin did last season.
Sure, it's easy to argue that Tony Stewart has the advantage of momentum, with his four wins in the Chase (I've done so myself, as a matter of fact).
But Edwards has been more consistent throughout the Chase, not just red-hot in spurts like Stewart.
Edwards' worst Chase finish this year is 11th at Talladega. Stewart has two finishes of 15th or worse, including 25th at Dover.
In addition, Edwards has six top-five's in the Chase. Stewart has just five, so you could make the case that Edwards has been running up front more reliably.
And it's not just during the Chase that Edwards has been more consistent; he's been doing it all season long. He has 25 top-10's in 2011 to Stewart's 18.
Consistency has provided Edwards with momentum up to this point, and it will carry him to his first Cup title on Sunday.
2. Edwards Has the Points Lead
Three points may not seem like a lot, but under the new points system it's quite significant. Especially considering the way Edwards and Stewart have both been running lately.
If Edwards can finish in the top four, something he's done in two of the last three and half of the last six Homestead races, Stewart would have to win the race outright to take the championship from the No. 99.
It's hard to say that having the lead going to Homestead is a psychological advantage for Edwards, however.
It certainly didn't prove to be so for Denny Hamlin last season, and Tony Stewart seems to be using his status as the trailing driver to his advantage. Stewart has been racing all-out throughout the Chase, and although he's had a couple of bad finishes, the results have been spectacular overall.
But still, having the points lead, however slim, is clearly a factor in Edwards' favor.
If he can finish ahead of Stewart, he wins the championship. That's not necessarily true for his rival. Advantage: Edwards.
1. Homestead History
Homestead is one of Edwards' best and most consistent tracks.
His worst finish there is 14th, coming in his first start at the track. In six races since, Edwards has two wins and has never finished worse than eighth. Overall, his average HMS finish is 5.71.
Homestead is a bread-and-butter track for Edwards, and he has every reason to feel confident if not cocky before Sunday's big event. The No. 99 has shown a remarkable ability throughout the Chase to turn rotten runs into magical finishes (Kansas and Martinsville), but that won't be necessary this time around.
There's no reason to doubt Edwards' ability to dominate the finale at Homestead from the drop of the green flag to the waving of the checkered. Expect to see his trademark backflip and get ready for an offseason of million-dollar smiles from Edwards.
Luke Krmpotich is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nascarfanumber1.