By: Jeff Wackerlin – @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on November 16, 2016 | 4:30 P.M. EST
“It doesn’t get any better than this. We’ve had a lot of fun this year and everybody on this team is looking forward to this opportunity.” (Photo: Getty Images)
Carl Edwards heads into The Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with redemption on his mind.
Not only did Edwards just miss the cut to make the title race last season, but in 2011 he finished second to Tony Stewart and tied in season-ending points – to race winner Tony Stewart. Edwards wound up losing the title in a tiebreaker on wins, which gave Stewart the championship.
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 will be Edwards’ first shot at the title under the new elimination-style Chase format. All he needs to do to win the Sprint Cup trophy this time around is have the best finish in the race among The Championship 4 drivers to capture his first championship.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Edwards said. “We’ve had a lot of fun this year and everybody on this team is looking forward to this opportunity.”
Edwards punched his ticket to Homestead-Miami with his win in the second race in the Round of 8 at Texas Motor Speedway. It was his third win of the season and first in this year’s Chase. Edwards, who ranks second among The Championship 4 in career Chase wins (9), has posted an average finish of 9.1 and has led 222 laps in the 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2016.
A majority of those laps led (160) came in both Texas races, which utilized the same tire combination that will be used this weekend.
“We look at things that apply to the Homestead race during the course of the year,” said Jimmy Makar, senior vice president of Joe Gibbs Racing. “Anything we can learn from either a tire combination or tracks that are similar, that take the same type of setups, are important to give you the best advantage. But everybody’s in that same boat, (with) that same information, and is probably doing the same things we are.”
Since the debut of the elimination-style format, this is the first time one organization has more than one car in The Championship 4, with Edwards and defending series champion Kyle Busch.
“The guys were back at the shop Sunday evening after the race in Phoenix,” Makar said, “juggling cars for primaries and back-ups for all four teams, to make sure we had the best cars for the two guys running for the Chase.”
Edwards’ Texas-winning car will be the back-up for Miami.
Although Edwards has failed to finish inside the top 10 in his last four starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he ranks first among The Championship 4 at the South Florida 1.5-mile oval in wins (2), top fives (5), laps led (568) and average finish (9.2). Last month, Edwards represented Joe Gibbs Racing and was the only Championship 4 driver to participate in a two-day test at HMS.
Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott tested for Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports, who will have Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson in the title race, respectively.
“We had a decent test so we’re going to do some good there,” Edwards said. “Everything we do all weekend will count, everything is important and it’s those kinds of situations that make for fun competition. We’ve got three tough competitors we’ve got to beat. I know they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game and that makes it special.”
Tomorrow, MRN.com will continue our Championship 4 previews as we look at Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson.
Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway, beginning at 1:30 p.m. (ET) – with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.
Tickets for NASCAR’s 2016 Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway are available and can be purchased by calling (866) 409-RACE (7223) or visiting www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com