Edwards still has a long way to go to reel in Chase leader Johnson

Updated: November 10, 2008, 1:02 PM ET

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Carl Edwards, right, got the best of Jimmie Johnson at Texas, but JJ still controls his own destiny.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Let's not get carried away over Carl Edwards gaining 77 points on Jimmie Johnson on Sunday. The Chase is only a little less over than it was going into Texas Motor Speedway.

Johnson still leads by 106 points, far and away the biggest margin yet for a driver going into the last two races of the Chase.

If this thing were really tightening up, Edwards wouldn't have said what he said after winning the Dickies 500 while Johnson struggled home 15th.

Is this the language of a driver breathing down another's neck for a championship?

"Really, it's just fun at this point," Edwards said. "We've got nothing to lose. We can just go out and be aggressive and take chances. I can race as hard as I want. I mean, it's cool."

Spoken like a true runner-up-to-be.

Last season, Johnson headed into penultimate Phoenix and the finale at Homestead-Miami with a 30-point lead over teammate Jeff Gordon. In 2006, Johnson went into the last two races with a hardly cushy 17-point edge.

The biggest lead at this point in the Chase, prior to Johnson's 106 now, was Kurt Busch's 41 in the inaugural NASCAR playoffs of 2004. And remember, Busch had a wheel come off during the finale and still won the championship by eight points over Johnson.

Indeed, every year of the Chase, the points leader with two races left has gone on to win the championship.

Johnson still has a decent shot at locking up his third consecutive championship -- the first NASCAR threepeat since Cale Yarborough 30 years ago -- at Phoenix and making Homestead-Miami little more than a victory celebration.

Swings of as many as 161 points are possible in a given race. So Johnson, should he gain 56 on Edwards and 18 on third-place Greg Biffle at Phoenix, would need only to start the Homestead-Miami race to be assured of the title.

And should Johnson pick up 90 on Edwards and 89 on Biffle at Phoenix, he could sit out the finale on South Beach, watch Edwards or Biffle win the race and lead the most laps, and still helicopter down to the speedway to accept the championship trophy.

The reason Johnson needs one point fewer on Biffle is that Johnson would win the first championship tiebreaker, total wins this season, 6-2.

-- Ed Hinton

Nationwide Series: Busch matches Ard's 10-win season

Kyle Busch made his mark in the Nationwide Series record book at Texas Motor Speedway, but Clint Bowyer took another step toward securing a championship. Then again, Carl Edwards made a little headway in his quest to spring a November surprise on Bowyer.

Busch's 10th win of the season leaves him tied with Sam Ard for the single-season win record in the series with two races left to claim the top spot as his own. Edwards finished second, and Bowyer took sixth -- allowing Edwards to gain 25 points on him.

Heading into Saturday's race at Phoenix International Raceway, Edwards trails by 91 points as he bids to repeat as champion. The two drivers were within sight of each other on the track most of the day, but Edwards took four new tires on the final pit stop, a decision that allowed him to gain a few spots down the stretch.

"I felt like Clint and I had very equal cars. I felt like we were about the same speed," Edwards said. "When I was in front of him, I could stay that way, and when he was in front of me, vice versa. It's wild that we picked up so many points on him.

"I thought that we were going to run right there together, and at the end, I actually thought that he was going to finish in front of us. But the way traffic worked out and everything got mixed up, we got around him and my car was really fast. That's good. I think we've got 91 points to make up in two races, which is completely reasonable. So, I'm very excited about that."

Edwards has reason to be excited after making up 105 points in two weeks. Similar performances at Phoenix and Homestead would leave him atop the standings. Edwards made up 80 points at Memphis and feels good about his chances. Then again, he admitted at Texas that it would be hard for him to say anything else.

Edwards is optimistic about the remaining races but thinks his biggest chance to shine will come in the Valley of the Sun.

"The thing about Homestead is that these mile-and-a-halves with these cars with the tapered spacer, it's really hard to get out and separate yourself from someone and make something happen," Edwards said. "The one I'm most excited about is Phoenix. I feel like our flat-track, short-track stuff has been really good. Milwaukee was great -- Richmond, Gateway, I don't know where else we ran. Every time it seems like we go to a shorter racetrack, it's good. Phoenix is the one I'm looking forward to the most in the Nationwide Series."

And it will hardly be surprising if Busch is looking forward to it as well, considering he won there in April. Busch has made the Nationwide Series his own personal playground this season, and ending the year with a three-race winning streak would be a fitting conclusion if he's strong at Phoenix and Homestead.

His win at Phoenix in the spring was part of a three-race winning streak that included Texas and Mexico City.

It was a good day overall for Joe Gibbs Racing as Joey Logano finished fourth in the No. 20 Toyota, giving that team a 54-point lead over Bowyer in the race for the owners' championship.

But it was Busch who made the biggest headlines, and he's poised to see what comes next. But he won't forget the sport's roots even if he supplants Ard in the record book. Busch met Ard at the track once when NASCAR brought a number of the series' greats to a race.

"I shook his hand and said hello to him and [told him] what he means to this sport," Busch said. "That was about the only time I've had to interact with him.

"I know his record of 10 wins, and I know what he's done for the sport. I know what all that is and how he's built the Nationwide Series. His name is one of the lead names you look at along with [Tommy] Houston, [Mark] Martin and [Tommy] Ellis and all those guys. It's a pretty cool list of names to look at and see who's built this series."

-- Mark Ashenfelter

Craftsman Truck Series: Win No. 6 for Hornaday pushes points to razor-thin margin

This is getting eerie. It's as if a magnetic field is on the Craftsman Truck Series points battle and keeps pulling one man closer to the other.

Take Friday night at Texas. Ron Hornaday Jr. makes a green-flag pit stop on Lap 56 and gets stuck when the caution flies on the track. Ouch. For a guy 31 points out of first with two-plus races remaining, it could have been a crippling blow. Fall to 18th place, perhaps get lapped and never sniff the lead again, watch Johnny Benson turn in a top-5 finish and leave town with a daunting deficit and only Phoenix and Homestead-Miami to make it up.

"I thought we were down and out," Hornaday said.

Uh-huh. Instead, the Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 33 caught a break some 10 laps later when another yellow flew, allowing him to catch up to the lead pack in a very strong Chevrolet. Long story short: Hornaday eventually reeled in Kyle Busch, who was driving a Billy Ballew Motorsports Toyota salvaged from a hauler fire, and turned in perhaps the most improbable of his six victories this season.

Benson came in third in a Bill Davis Racing Toyota he said was "a little too far off," which can't be said for the standings. With two races remaining, this is the tightest battle in Trucks history, as Benson leads by six points.

Not that anyone should be surprised. It's the third time in the past 10 races that the title margin has been single digits.

"No matter what I do, Benson's right there," Hornaday said after hearing about Benson's top-3 finish. He had the same incredulous look on his face that Carl Edwards had after the Atlanta Sprint Cup race, when he heard Jimmie Johnson had finished second to take some of the joy out of his win.

The battle continues Friday at Phoenix, where both drivers have won. Looking for some kind of trend to see which driver will prevail when it's all done? Maybe it's bonus points. Hornaday has a knack for them, picking up the five-spots for leading laps in 19 of 23 races and the most laps in nine. Benson has been far less proficient, failing to lead any laps in three of the past four races and leading the most in only two.

It might seem like semantics to get that deep into the points, but this fight almost demands it. The magnet is that strong.

-- John Schwarb

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Jayski Podcast

Carl Edwards gambles and grabs his eighth win of 2008. Edwards takes a big bite out of Jimmie Johnson's points lead, and we hear how both of them feel about it.
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Racing Resources Says …

Sprint Cup Series

Carl Edwards

Edwards

  • Carl Edwards won the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He posted his 15th career victory in his 155th start. It was his eighth win of the 2008 season, tying him with Kyle Busch for the most this year. It was his third series victory at Texas in his eighth start, the most of any driver.
  • Edwards became the first driver to sweep both of a season's races at Texas.
  • Edwards won back-to-back races for the third time in 2008.
  • Edwards led 212 of the 334 laps, the most. It was the first time in the 2008 Chase that Edwards led the most laps. He led 335 of the 673 total laps run at Texas in 2008.
  • Points leader Jimmie Johnson finished 15th, one lap down. Johnson now has a 106-point lead over second-place Edwards. Johnson's lead was 183 entering Texas.
  • The largest points lead overcome with two races left was 85 in 1992 by Alan Kulwicki.
  • Johnson failed to finish on the lead lap for the first time in the past 13 Chase races. He failed to lead a lap for the first time in 17 Chase races.
  • Jeff Gordon, who finished second, matched his best Texas finish in his 16th start there.
  • Edwards won at Texas one week after winning at Atlanta. This is the fourth consecutive year that the winner of the fall Atlanta race went on to win the fall Texas race.
  • Seven of the 12 Chase drivers finished in the top 10.
  • Jamie McMurray, who finished third, posted his best finish of the season.
  • The top 10 consisted of four Fords, four Chevrolets and two Toyotas. Sam Hornish Jr., who finished 23rd, was the highest-finishing Dodge. Hornish also was the highest-finishing rookie of the year contender.
  • Brad Keselowski finished 19th in his series debut.
  • Roush Fenway Racing posted its 10th win of the 2008 season, tied for the most this season with Joe Gibbs Racing. It also was Roush Fenway's seventh win at Texas, the most of any team.

Nationwide Series

Kyle Busch

Busch

  • Kyle Busch won the O'Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway. He posted his 21st series victory in his 136th career start. He now is tied for 10th all-time with Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant. It also was his 10th win of the 2008 season, tying him with Sam Ard for most series victories in a season.
  • Busch posted his second series victory at Texas in his eighth start. His previous Texas victory came in the April race.
  • Busch became the first driver to sweep both series races at Texas in one season. He posted his 21st NASCAR victory in his 77th race this season: 10 Nationwide, eight Sprint Cup and three Craftsman Truck. Busch now has led 4,135 laps in his NASCAR races this season.
  • Busch led 174 laps at Texas, the most laps ever led by a driver at Texas. He led 300 of the 400 Nationwide Series laps raced at Texas in 2008.
  • It was the seventh time in his career that Busch led more than 150 laps in a race and the fourth time in 2008. Busch has led the most laps in 13 of his 28 series starts this season.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing posted its 19th series victory of the 2008 season. Toyota posted its 20th series victory of the 2008 season.
  • Carl Edwards, who finished second, gained 25 points on points leader Clint Bowyer. With six laps to go, the points lead was 116 points, the same as it was entering Texas. Edwards now is 91 back. Bowyer finished sixth, posting his 27th top-10 finish of the season.
  • Mark Martin, who finished third, posted his third top-5 finish in five races this season.
  • Joey Logano, who finished fourth, posted his fifth top-5 finish of the season and 12th top-10 finish in 17 career races.
  • The top 10 consisted of three Toyotas, four Chevrolets and three Fords. Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished 15th, was the highest-finishing Dodge.

Craftsman Truck Series

Ron Hornaday Jr.

Hornaday

  • Ron Hornaday Jr. won the Chevy Silverado 350 at Texas Motor Speedway. He posted his 39th series victory in his 223rd career start. He posted his sixth win of the 2008 season, the most of all drivers. He posted his second win at Texas in his 12th race there; both of his wins came in 2008. Hornaday became the second driver to sweep both races at Texas in one season; Brendan Gaughan won four in a row at Texas between 2002 and 2003.
  • Hornaday gained 25 points on leader Johnny Benson; he now is only six points behind. This is the closest points battle with two races to go in series history; the previous was seven in 2004. Benson finished third in the race.
  • Benson has lost 59 points to Hornaday over the past two races. He had a 65-point lead following Martinsville.
  • There are two races left in the season (Phoenix and Homestead). Benson and Hornaday have each scored victories on the final two tracks.
  • Kevin Harvick Inc. posted its 16th series victory and its seventh of the 2008 season. It posted its second series win at Texas, both in 2008.
  • Kyle Busch, who finished second, posted his 14th top-10 finish in 16 starts this season. He has finished first or second five times this season.
  • Busch led the most laps in the race (87 of 147), the fifth time in 2008 that he has led the most laps.
  • Race winner Hornaday led 45 laps in the event, including the final 40.
  • Chevrolet posted its ninth win of the 2008 season.
  • Colin Braun, who finished fifth, was the best finisher of the four rookie of the year contenders in the race. Three of the four contenders finished in the top 10.
  • The top 10 featured seven Toyotas, one Chevrolet and two Fords. Dennis Setzer, who finished 13th, was the highest-finishing Dodge.

-- Racing Resources