Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Tony Stewart KOs Edwards after a 4th Chase win

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

Texas Motor Speedway hosted race No. 7 of the Chase - or Round 7 if you would like to keep the boxing analogies going.

Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart squared off in a showdown in the Lone Star State, keeping each other within sight the entire race. Although Stewart won, he was unable to capitalize enough because finishing in second place was none other than Carl Edwards.

With just two races remaining, it appears to be a two-man battle. But the wildcard of a newly reconfigured Phoenix remains, so anything could happen next weekend.

1. Carl Edwards – 2nd place is still a victory after holding onto the points lead – By Amanda Ebersole

Headed into Texas Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards was confident in his ability to perform well at this track. Being billed by TMS president as a boxing match between Edwards and contender Tony Stewart, the race promised much excitement, and it did not disappoint.

Edwards and Stewart remained in eye sight of each other the entire race, from the drop of the green flag. Edwards started in 7th while Stewart was just slightly ahead in fifth. That remained how the day went - Stewart had just a slightly better car then Edwards this time around.

Though, if you call this as a boxing match as Eddie Gossage promoted it – Stewart won this round, but Edwards wins the fight; he still walks away from Texas with the points lead, although it is down to just a three-point difference.

After the race, Edwards was not disappointed. “At the end of the day, we’re going to the final two races.  Although we would have loved to have won today in our Aflac Fusion, to be three points ahead and then to have the third and fourth-place guys farther behind, it looks like it’s truly going to come down to Tony and I, and that’s going to be a lot of fun.  It’s going to get pretty exciting and I’m just glad Tony and I are out there and we can race for this thing.”

"Smoke" shows his muscles after winning the AAA 500.
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
2. Tony Stewart (-3) – Stewart KO’s Edwards this round – By Lacy Keyser 

It’s no secret that coming into Texas, Tony Stewart had one thing and one thing only on his mind - winning. Coming into Texas, Stewart wanted nothing more than to beat Carl Edwards and get that points lead on the path to winning the 2011 Sprint Cup championship. The question remains, can he do it? Coming off his win at Martinsville, Stewart had momentum and it was clearly shown at the Texas showdown.

Stewart started the race off strong and was leading and smokin’ the field. There was nothing stopping the No. 14 car and team until the last green flag stop when Jeff Burton opted to stay out as long as he could and lead, pushing Stewart back.

Finally at Lap 330 with four laps remaining, Burton ran out of fuel, handing the lead back to Stewart. Close behind, however, was points leader Edwards, who wouldn’t budge from Stewart's sights coming to the white flag. Stewart made it his 4th win in the Chase. Stewart is now just 3 points from taking the points lead; can he do it Sunday at Phoenix?

After the race, Stewart spoke about his win and the message it sends to Edwards. “We tried to tell them that last week, so ... It is what it is. I mean, I still stand firm that we're not counting on them to make mistakes. We're controlling our destiny. Today is a perfect example of that. We're worried about what we're doing. We're not worried about what they're doing. We raced our race today. We didn't do anything worrying about what they were doing or how they were doing things. We just ran our race. That's what we intend to do the next two weeks."
“It’s theirs to lose now. But I don't know that they have a choice now. I mean, we did what we said we were going to do. We're going to take it if we want it. Today is a perfect example. We took five points off that deficit today. We have that ability to do that the next two weeks.”

3. Kevin Harvick (-33) – Losing ground after a 13th-place finish - By Rebecca Kivak

Kevin Harvick lost precious ground in his campaign for his first Sprint Cup title after Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. A daring two-tire call on the final pit stop did not pay off for Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet team, who fell back to finish 13th. As a result, Harvick’s points deficit increased from 21 points to 33 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

Harvick had a battle ahead of him at Texas after qualifying 21st. He fought a loose-handling racecar throughout Sunday’s race. By Lap 43 Harvick cracked the top 15, where he was mired for most of the first half. After the second caution on Lap 201, Harvick restarted 11th and quickly entered the top 10, where he ran for the remainder of the race. On the No. 29’s final pit stop on Lap 299, crew chief Gil Martin made the call to take two tires in order to gain track position and try for a top-5 finish. The gamble failed as Harvick dropped back through the field, finishing 13th.

"We gambled a bit on the last stop and it just didn't work,” Harvick said. “We were way too loose there at the end and lost more than we had gained with that two-tire stop. It wasn't the run we needed today, but this No. 29 Rheem team will move on to next weekend."

With only two races to go, Harvick is not out of the title race, but at 33 points out, he is more of a longshot to win the title. He will need the No. 99 of Edwards and the No. 14 of Tony Stewart to stumble in order to keep his chances of bringing home the championship trophy alive.

4. Matt Kenseth (-38) – Still in the fight – By Genevieve Cadorette

Matt Kenseth qualified 3rd for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, giving him a great starting position when the green flag waved. He won in Texas in April and decided to use the same setup as they did in the spring. He was heard on the radio at the beginning of the race saying that the car was handling as good as it could be.

Kenseth was in second for two laps, and moved quickly to steal first place; he ended up leading 173 laps.
After the second caution, Tony Stewart stole the lead; Kenseth stayed focused, and held onto second position to regain the lead within a lap.

As soon as the sun came down and the temperatures dropped, Kenseth started to fall behind. Kenseth’s lowest position of the race was in 12th spot after the final round of pit stops when Jeff Burton ran out of gas; Kenseth regained positions and finished in fourth.

"I'm really proud of my guys they did a really great job, they made a lot of adjustments, really great pit stops, I thought Jimmy had a really wonderful strategy to get us what we got. We were just off all day compared to where we normally are here, could never hit it really from the first lap to the last lap we could never get it to the way we needed to be," he said to ESPN after the race. "Them guys fought hard, they gave everything they had, I gave everything I had and we came home with a top five so overall it was a good day."

He’s moved ahead to fourth in the standings, trailing 38 points behind leader Carl Edwards. Although he knows he is in a better position than the guys behind him, he said after the race that he doesn't believe his chances to move ahead in the next two weeks are very good unless the 14 and 99 have a disaster. A win in Phoenix could change the outcome of the predicted end to the Chase for the Sprint Cup title and the possibility of Kenseth ending his season with Crown Royal on top is a realistic goal.

5. Brad Keselowski (-49) – Falling one position after a tough race in Texas - By Melissa Wright

Brad Keselowski fell one position in the Chase standings this weekend to 5th overall after a grueling battle with the handling of his No. 2 Penske Dodge. Keselowski is now 49 points out of the lead from points leader, Carl Edwards. His 24th-place finish came after waiting to pit for their final scheduled stop for fuel with seven laps to go. At that point, Keselowski was sitting in the 6th position and had a chance at a top-10 finish.

Prior to that stop, a caution was brought out on Lap 271. Keselowski was in an incident with Denny Hamlin on pit road, which caused some damage to his right rear and he had to come back in for repairs. Keselowski was beyond livid with Ryan Newman for blocking him in and causing him to back up to get out, but he hit Hamlin's car. Keselowski felt that Newman was intentionally blocking him in his pit stall to help his teammate, Tony Stewart. He quickly told his spotter, Joey Meier, “Tell that 11 that I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. Tell Ryan the next time he needs a break, he's going around!”

After the race, Keselowski apologized to Hamlin's team and talked to Newman's crew chief, Tony Gibson, about Newman blocking him.

Keselowski said, “We couldn’t get the speed out of our car that we needed and fought all day for track position. We lost the handling on the car right in the middle part of the race and adjustments were made to make it better and it just made it worse. It was unfortunate.” Keselowski went onto say, “It hurts our shot, but our shot was really hurt after Martinsville.”

Johnson with wife Chandra and daughter Evie on pit road prior to
the AAA Texas 500.
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
6. Jimmie Johnson (-55) – Savages a 14th place finish after a spin through the grass – By Amanda Ebersole

After Jimmie Johnson’s spin through the grass, one thing was assured: there went the hopes of Johnson rebounding and attempting to regain points in the Chase.

With only two races remaining, Johnson is 6th in the points and 55 points behind. Mathematically Johnson is not eliminated, although for him to gain enough points, all five drivers in front of him would have to have disastrous races, which is highly unlikely.

“Just a loose car,” said Johnson of his struggles with the No. 48 MyLowes Chevrolet. “I fought a loose race car all night long and I lost it off of four. And I think sliding thru the grass did some damage underneath the car. It may have been the rear-end or something because I didn’t really drive really good after that. We were loose, but fast beforehand and then after the spin that really hurt the car.”

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-79) – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fights to 7th place finish - By Admin

The No. 88 AMP ENERGY Chevrolet has been fairly  consistent with Top 10's finishes during the 2011 Chase.  Though AAA Texas  at TMS is one of his better tracks, he qualified in 16th place.  The No. 88 Team worked hard all afternoon, trying to get to the front to repeat at the site of his first Cup win. Battling an ill-handling car through changing track conditions proved difficult. Earnhardt communicated with his team offering them lots of "feedback" in order to get the National Guard "Trained by Tradition"/AMP Chevy in to the top 10..

Though he didn't gain any bonus points this race, Earnhardt moved up two spots to seventh in points, 79 behind leader Carl Edwards. He remains the only Chase contender winless this season. While it seems unlikely they can make up that difference, the No. 88 team does not seem to have lessened their efforts to get that win before the end of the season.

8. Jeff Gordon (-81) – A great day at Texas Motor Speedway - By Amanda Ebersole

Jeff Gordon was happy with a sixth-place finish after Texas Motor Speedway, though he did not gain any ground in the Chase standings.

“If you look at our history here in Texas, it is not my best track and we struggled a little bit this weekend, so when they dropped the green and we were driving forward I was pretty happy, we made some adjustments to make it even better and at one point in the race I thought we had something that could compete with the guys upfront for the win. When the sun went down, we lost the handling a little bit and got real loose, so we fell back. Still sixth is a great day for our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet.”

9. Kurt Busch (-87) – Texas was troublesome for the Double-Deuce - By Holly Machuga 

Texas turned out to be a rough time for Kurt Busch and the 22 team; after starting 14th, they struggled with a difficult racecar (something that everyone ultimately struggled with). The team finished a disappointing 30th, which dropped them one spot in the points standings.

At this point, it is safe to say that the drivers on the low end of the Chase are struggling for any final hope that they can muster. With two to go, things are getting extremely interesting. 

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
10. Denny Hamlin (-99) – Momentum and great race finish spoiled by unforeseen circumstances - By Unique Hiram 

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, started the AAA Texas 500 in 28th position and finished 20th. Although he had previously captured two consecutive wins at this track last season, it wasn't meant to be at the conclusion of Sunday's race in Texas. Throughout most of the race, especially the first half, Hamlin was fighting an ill-handling car and nothing seemed to be working for this race team. 

However, the second half of the race seemed to get a little better and Hamlin began to slowly work his way toward the front of the field. He and his team seemed poised to fight for a top-10 finish until things drastically changed on pit road. Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, backed his car into Hamlin's while attempting to leave his pit stall. As a result, both cars had to remain on pit road for an extended amount of time, thus losing important track position. 

In response to a question about his thoughts on yesterday's race, Hamlin stated the following: "We just fought an ill-handling car all day.  It's probably one of the worst that we've had in a long time and we just couldn't fix any of the things that we had wrong in practice. Thought when the race started we would be a little bit better, but it wasn't better. We just ... 20th is where we ran all day. We just couldn't catch a break and then the No. 2 jammed in his spot, so he backed up while we were pulling out. Just one of those things."

Hamlin has moved up one position in the standings to 10th, 99 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

Michael McDowell drives behind the wheel of the No. 18.
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
11. Kyle Busch (-100) – Out of contention after being parked at Texas - By Rebecca Kivak

Kyle Busch came into Texas set to run all three series, hoping to benefit from the extra seat time and salvage any chance he might have to win his first Sprint Cup championship. Instead, Busch was mathematically eliminated from the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup when NASCAR parked him for the weekend after deliberately wrecking Ron Hornaday under caution in Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Busch dropped from seventh to 11th in the points standings, 100 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

In addition to parking Busch for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Texas, NASCAR on Monday fined Busch $50,000 for his retaliatory actions and placed him on probation through Dec. 31. A cloud of uncertainty surrounds Busch’s future: his sponsor M&Ms issued a statement condemning Busch’s behavior, and his Cup team owner Joe Gibbs skirted questions about Busch’s long-term standing with the team in an ESPN interview.

Busch, who has not spoken with media since the punishment was announced, issued an open letter of apology Saturday. Busch apologized for his actions and took full responsibility. “As a race-car driver, the hardest thing to do is to sit on the sidelines listening to cars on the track when you know you should be out there competing. For this, I have no one to blame but myself," he said.

Busch watched his replacement, Michael McDowell, in the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota on Sunday from atop the pit box with his team. Because of the driver change, McDowell had to start from the back of the field. He finished 33rd, three laps down, after struggling with the unfamiliar and ill-handling racecar all day. 

12. Ryan Newman (-103) – From 2 laps down to a 16th-place finish – By Lacy Keyser

Ryan Newman started Sunday's AAA Texas 500 going backwards. Newman started 24th and was unable to gain any ground. By Lap 50 Newman was already two laps down and stated that he had a tire going down after the team's first green flag stop, causing the No. 39 to pit twice. It clearly wasn’t Newman’s day; he kept falling back and by Lap 105 he was in 35th position. The day would seem very long for Newman.

In the remaining laps, Newman and his 39 crew took a gamble, making the decision to stay on track while others hit pit road for their final stops. The team sat second behind Jeff Burton and was battling him for the lead. Newman took the lead with 11 laps to go and held the lead for a few laps when they opted to pit, worried they were going to run out of fuel. Newman finished the day 16th; he remains 12th in the Chase and is now eliminated from Chase contention.

Only two races remain - the wildcard of Phoenix with the freshly repaved surface and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Two races and two drivers with only a three-point separation - this is the most exciting Chase we have seen in a long time! Tune into Skirts and Scuffs Friday morning as we preview the contenders headed into Phoenix, though the stats may have to get thrown into the air this time around.
Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Tony Stewart KOs Edwards after a 4th Chase win Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Tony Stewart KOs Edwards after a 4th Chase win Reviewed by Admin on Tuesday, November 08, 2011 Rating: 5