FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 2, 2011) - With an impressive pass on the outside for a victory over five-time reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson this past weekend at Martinsville, Tony Stewart solidified himself as a championship threat as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup continues to heat up with its next stop set for Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
As the series heads to "The Great American Speedway!" for the most pivotal race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Stewart has momentum on his side and has officially thrown down the gauntlet to current points leader Carl Edwards, who leads Stewart by a razor-thin eight points.
"Carl Edwards had better be real worried," Stewart following his win at Martinsville. "That's all I've got to say. He's not going to sleep for the next three weeks."
Edwards, who battled back for a ninth-place finish in last Sunday's race, maintained his championship lead through consistency as he has posted six top-10 finishes in the seven Chase races. Consistency has paid off for Edwards and he feels that it will continue to do so as he battles Stewart during the final three races of the season.
"He's wound up," Edwards said following the race. "He won the race. We'll see what happens at Texas. I feel like we're gonna go there and we're gonna have as good a shot to win as anyone.
"We'll go race hard. They're gonna have to race us too, so I'm excited about the next three races. Texas is one of our strong points. Texas is different than any track we go to just because of the atmosphere. It's one of the biggest races of the year."
Stewart continues his remarkable run in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Stewart started the Chase in ninth position with no victories, just 11 top-10 finishes in the first 26 races and limping into the playoffs.
Now with three victories (Chicagoland, New Hampshire and Martinsville) and five top-10 finishes in the seven Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races, Stewart is reenergized. With new life to his season, Stewart is now driven to win his third career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
"It's awesome that we have that opportunity," said Stewart, who won Sprint Cup titles in 2002 and '05. "We've got three tracks that we feel are really good to us. I'm excited about it. We've had one of those up-and-down years, and we're having a run in this now where we are hungry, we are hungry for this."
Considering the historical precedence the AAA Texas 500 has set as the points leader following the race has gone on to win the championship five of the previous six seasons, a victory can put a driver in prime position and the odds more stacked in his favor.
Both drivers have reason to remain confident as they head to Texas Motor Speedway. Edwards became the first driver to sweep the Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway in the same season (2008) and his three career Cup victories are unmatched. His other win came in this event during its inaugural year in 2005. He also is coming off a third-place finish in April's Samsung Mobile 500.
For Stewart, his first and only victory at Texas Motor Speedway came in 2006 during the Dickies 500 when he ironically did not qualify for the Chase. Overall, he has 10 top-10 finishes, including four top fives, in 19 starts for a 13.15 career finishing average.
For Edwards, nothing could be better than battling Stewart for a championship during the final three races.
"It would be perfectly fine with me if it came down to Tony and I the last lap at Texas," Edwards said. "If we could separate ourselves from the rest of this pack that would be wonderful."
The green flag for the AAA Texas 500 is set for 2 p.m. CT. Tickets for the eighth stop in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.