Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rating the AAA Texas 500: 3 Stars ***

If it wasn’t a two driver race for the Sprint Cup Series championship coming into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, it certainly was leaving the track. The eighth race in the Chase gets a 3 Star Rating, but it defintely helped stoke the coals for a great championship battle.

Tony Stewart has been simply amazing since the Chase began. He is now just three points behind points leader Carl Edwards and picked up his fourth win of the season Sunday at Texas. Oh wait, that’s his fourth win of the Chase, as well.

My, what a difference a couple of months can make. Stewart said he and his team didn’t even deserve to be in the Chase after a ninth-place finish in August at Michigan, and he was one of the final drivers to hold on to a Chase spot based on points, considering he had no wins at the time.

Now he is the leading challenger in the fight for the championship. Edwards may lead the points standings and have finished second Sunday, but Stewart has all of the momentum right now. Stewart is on a Jimmie Johnson-type run in this Chase, and we’ve seen how that has worked out the past five years.

Speaking of Johnson, we can now put a fork in his bid for a sixth-straight championship. He currently sits 55 points out of the lead in sixth with just two races to go. And with the way he ran Sunday, that #48 car is not running well enough to win a championship even if he was in contention.

With the new points system this year, it has taken a full eight races to separate the Chase drivers to put the championship battle in a manageable perspective. The standings are more fluid under the new system, and a driver almost has to prove they can’t run up front for several weeks before people feel comfortable ruling them out of the Chase.

Now the stage is set. It will be Edwards vs. Stewart in what looks to be a thrilling run to the finish. Yes, there are three points separating the two drivers, but they might as well be tied. Whoever finishes better in these next two races, even if it by just one position, will in all likelihood win the championship.

It will be tough for fans to come up with something to complain about as far as the championship picture is concerned this year. For those tired of Johnson, he won’t be a factor in the final two races. It was actually kind of shocking how little attention he received throughout Sunday’s race. Kyle Busch almost got more air time and he wasn’t even in the race. Maybe we’re just used to it all being about the #48 team during this time of the year.

Stewart and Edwards have also not raced conservatively lately, and Stewart has put his foot to the floor since the Chase started. He has taken chances, and for the most part they have all worked out.

That should make these next two weeks plenty exciting, especially with the unknowns about the track at Phoenix heading into next week. Hopefully the track is racy so these two championship contenders can go at it without any outside factors coming into play.

Enjoy the finish to the season, folks. It’s going to be a good one.


  1. I was at this race in person, I'd say from the grandstands that a 3-star rating is a little harsh, though I don't know how well it showed on television. I'd give it a solid 4-star rating, even if, as a Ford guy, I had to watch my boys get beat by Smoke.

  2. Anonymous - I will say all of the green-flag racing was nice, and the storylines surrounding this weekend were fantastic. Overall, though, only three drivers really had a chance to win this race: Stewart, Edwards and Kenseth. Everybody else was too loose to truly contend.

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