NASCAR

NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

Edwards, Stewart square off in season finale

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Tony Stewart  It’s tough to rank Stewart ahead of Carl Edwards or vise versa, but Smoke gets the edge here because he’s throwing wins on the board — and that’s fun to watch.

2. Carl Edwards  His consistency — highlighted by consecutive runner-up showings — is unquestioned. Edwards won the season finale in Homestead last season. Winning a second straight would clinch the title.

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<p> It's a two-man race as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its final stop of the season. Predictably, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart top Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

8. Denny Hamlin  When asked whether his sports psychologist might help teammate Kyle Busch he said, “We both have screws loose — it’s just that some are tighter than others. And they’re in different places.” That’s deep.

9. Clint Bowyer  Bowyer is finishing his tenure at Richard Childress Racing strong with six top 10s in the nine Chase races thus far. Credit driver and team for hanging tough.

10. Greg Biffle  Has averaged a 14th-place finish throughout the Chase which, incidentally, is probably where he’ll finish in the point standings if Kasey Kahne keeps coming on.

11. Jeff Gordon  Looked as out to lunch at Phoenix as we’ve seen all year. Experimenting, maybe?

12. AJ Allmendinger  Allmendinger will be the next driver to score his first Cup victory. Hell, it could come this weekend.

13. Marcos Ambrose  Between Allmendinger and Ambrose, it’s obvious they’re doing something right at RPM (or they’re not tinkering with new setups as much as other teams are).

14. Kyle Busch  Official reason for Kyle’s DNF at Phoenix: Karma.

15. Martin Truex Jr.  If this team could ever learn to put an entire race together they’d be dangerous.

Just off the lead pack: Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Ryan Newman
 

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A Draw in the Desert

Kahne wins Phoenix; Edwards, Stewart remain separated by three points

by Matt Taliaferro

Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart entered Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway separated by three points at the top of NASCAR’s championship standings. And after finishing second (Edwards) and third (Stewart), they’ll go to the season finale in Homestead, Fla., still three points apart.

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<p> Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart will settle NASCAR's 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup in Homestead, Fla. on Sunday.</p>

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Phoenix International Raceway

Previewing NASCAR's Kobalt Tools 500

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush


Race: Kobalt Tools 500
Track: Phoenix International Raceway
Location: Avondale, Ariz.
When: Sunday, Nov. 13
TV: ESPN (3:00 p.m. EST)

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<p> Athlon Sports previews the Kobalt Tools 500 from Phoenix International Raceway.</p>

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

And then there were two

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Tony Stewart  Momentum has clearly swung in Smoke’s favor. He’s always been a streaky driver, and now that he’s “on” it may be hard for Carl Edwards to hold him off.

2. Carl Edwards  Averaging a 5.6-place finish in the Chase, but Stewart is blowing Cousin Carl’s doors off in the wins department. Still, NASCAR’s points format rewards consistency over winning, so is it advantage: Carl?

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<p> Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart have separated themselves from the field in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup. But who's the real man to beat?</p>

11. Greg Biffle  Five straight top-15 showings for Biffle and the boys. Finishing strong matters.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Consecutive seventh-place finishes, the best we’ve seen in a few months out of this bunch.

13. Kurt Busch  Parked brother Kyle got more camera time than 30th-place Kurt at Texas.

14. Martin Truex Jr.  Bowyer’s teammate-to-be has three stright top 10s. Again, finishing strong matters.

15. Kyle Busch  There comes a turning point in every driver’s career. Maybe this was Kyle’s.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman
 

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Tony Stewart Wins in Texas

Stewart wins fourth Chase race; Carl Edwards second

by Matt Taliaferro

Tony Stewart is putting together a run in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship as impressive as any seen in its seven-year history. Stewart’s win in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was his fourth in eight Chase races, and finds him just three points shy of Carl Edwards as the Sprint Cup Series heads to the penultimate race of the season in Phoenix.

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<p> Tony Stewart held off Carl Edwards to win his second straight race in the AAA Texas 500.</p>

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The Sordid Tale of Jeremy Mayfield

Time for Denial is Long Past

by Tom Bowles

It’s been a little over 48 hours since Jeremy Mayfield’s final NASCAR chapter — filled with drugs, guns, allegedly stolen equipment — and the stench of an ugly lie has been revealed. It’s the last bit of content for what will be a 500-page, tell-all book someday, but now with the wounds still fresh I can only summarize two years of Mayfield mayhem in just one word:

Sorry.

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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles examines the long, sad plight of banned NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield — and the latest twist in what seems to be a never-ending saga.</p>

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Texas Motor Speedway

Previewing NASCAR's AAA Texas 500

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: AAA Texas 500
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
When: Sunday, Nov. 6
TV: ESPN (3:00 p.m. EST)

Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval; Banking/Turns: 24°; Banking/Quad-Oval: 18°; Banking/Straightaways: 5°

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<p> Athlon Sports previews Sunday's AAA Texas 500 from Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR's eighth race in the Chase for the Championship.</p>

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

A Two Man Show? Not Just Yet.

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Carl Edwards
Talladega and Martinsville were the wild card tracks, and the two Edwards and crew were most apprehensive about. They went into ’Dega with a five-point lead and left Martinsville up eight.

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<p> Is it a two-man battle? Not yet, but Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart have certainly separated from the pack in the Chase standings and in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

8. Jeff Gordon
It’s been a disappointing Chase for Gordon and the gang thus far. In fact, his third-place run at Martinsville was the best showing he’s had since a fourth in Loudon, five weeks ago.

9. Clint Bowyer
Will Bowyer’s hiring at Michael Waltrip Racing come at the expense of David Reutimann’s full-season effort? It just might ...

10. Kyle Busch
Has been wholly unspectacular throughout the Chase, which begs the question, “Why is he rated so high on this list?” Answer: Because he still has the ability to win on any given weekend.

11. Kasey Kahne
A strong six-race run comes to an end in Martinsville, which has never been a great “Kasey track.”

12. Kurt Busch
Sliding the wrong way since the win at Dover five weeks ago.

13. Jeff Burton
Follows runner-up showing at Talladega with a sixth at Martinsville.

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
In lieu of a top-5 finish, it was at least good to hear Junior having fun in Martinsville.

15. Greg Biffle
Averaging a rather pedestrian 13th-place run over the last month.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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Tony Stewart Wins Martinsville

Stewart wins third Chase race, narrows point gap

by Matt Taliaferro

Prior to NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, Tony Stewart stated that his inclusion in the playoffs may simply be wasting a spot in lieu of another, more worthy contender. Three victories later, the two-time Cup champion finds himself in the thick of the title hunt after a win in the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

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<p> Tony Stewart passed Jimmie Johnson with two laps remaining to win the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.</p>

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Tackling Talladega

Despite controversies, Talladega "just works"

by Vito Pugliese

There’s a reason why Talladega continues to endure and endear itself to NASCAR Nation. Vito Pugliese provides a first-hand account of this past weekend’s racing from the 2.66-mile behemoth.

While some experiments and initiatives in NASCAR have not performed as expected, there are some constants that continue to produce. One of them has been producing for over 40 years: Talladega.

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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese admits that there are issues with plate racing, circa 2011, but states that regardless of the circumstances, Talladega just works.</p>

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