The Chase MVP? Carl Edwards
From his fight with Kevin Harvick to his wreck, Carl Edwards made the Chase fun
If all goes well, Kyle Busch should be the winner in next year's Sprint Cup
The largest point deficit overcome in the last two races of the championship is 85
If there were an MVP award for this year's Chase, I would vote to give it to Carl Edwards. The man, quite simply, has been the only exciting thing about an event in which the probable outcome has been known for several weeks.
From his last-lap, video-game inspired move at Kansas, to his wreck-starting antics at Talladega, to his public shoving match with Kevin Harvick at Charlotte, Edwards has seemed bent on making NASCAR's postseason as entertaining as possible. Heck, even watching his face fall in Victory Lane after being told that Jimmie Johnson had surged to a second-place finish at Atlanta was a hoot. Pathos, glory, foolishness, brilliance -- Cup-racing's Johnny Drama has been playing to the back row since Week 1. For that, we are all forever in his debt.
And the thing is, you could make the case that Edwards, instead of Johnson or Kyle Busch, has been the best driver in the sport all season. He's been winning, after all, since February. His victory last weekend at Texas, coming as it did on the heels of his win at Atlanta, was the third time this season that Cousin Carl has put together back-to-back wins.
In an assignment for the magazine, I recently had to predict next year's Cup winner. I chose, for sound reasons I think, Kyle Busch. But now I'm not so sure. Going into 2009, I'm not sure there's a talent in the Cup garage that's more formidable than Edwards. There may come a day when he doesn't feel compelled to manufacture drama. And that will be a dark day for his opponents, because it will likely be due to the fact that he's running away with a championship.
HOW TO DRIVE
Phoenix International Raceway
Denny Hamlin talks about why he likes racing at Phoenix: "The track can be really tricky. It's flat and requires you to be really good with your set-up in order to be quick through the corners. I spent a lot of time running on flat tracks, not the mile-and-a-half banked tracks at which we often run. That experience helps me because it feels familiar, and I'm comfortable at Phoenix because of it. Both ends of the racetrack there are completely different. On top of that, the dogleg on the backstretch can trip you up, as well. Being off at Phoenix just a little bit can be the difference between running well and really struggling."
106: Current points deficit between second-place Carl Edwards and overall leader Jimmie Johnson
85: Largest points deficit overcome in the season's final two races since the implementation of the points system in 1975 (1992: Alan Kulwicki defeated Bill Elliott for the Winston Cup)
5: Number of times Edwards has beat Johnson by 106 points or more in consecutive races this year
November 2, 1997: Trailing overall leader Jeff Gordon by 145 points entering the race, Dale Jarrett leads 73 laps en route to victory in the Dura Lube 500 Presented by Kmart. With the win, Jarrett cuts Gordon's lead to 77 points. He goes on to finish second in his next start, the season finale at Homestead, but can get no closer than 14 points as Gordon goes on to win his second Cup title.