FORT WORTH, Texas — Tony Stewart got what he wanted.
So did NASCAR.
The gruff, plain-talking driver from Indiana tightened up the Chase for the Sprint Cup to nearly a whisker, winning at Texas Motor Speedway and setting up a tantalizing two-race sprint to the end of the season.
Stewart sliced five points off the eight-point lead Carl Edwards carried into Sunday’s race, taking the maximum 48 he could collect – 43 for first place, three for winning, one for leading a lap and one for leading the most laps.
“We’re set on it, man,” Stewart said. “This is just the way it’s going to be. … Do not count us out of this thing, I tell you that. We did everything we could today.”
Edwards’ second-place finish allowed him to absorb most of the damage and keep the points lead, but he has no doubt about how fast Stewart is closing on him.
“Maybe I’ll have to bring him some lunch,” Edwards said, joking with reporters after the race. “I hope this roll he’s on doesn’t last the next two weeks. Otherwise, it’s going to be really tough.”
It was Stewart’s fourth victory in the eight races so far in NASCAR’s 10-race Sprint Cup “playoffs,” the format created seven years ago to heighten interest in stock car racing’s season-ending races.
“This is the perfect scenario, the perfect storm, going into the last two weeks,” Stewart said. “It’s what you want. Two guys, three points, two weeks to go.”
The series heads to Phoenix and its repaved track next week, then crowns its champion the following week at Miami.
“Tony thinks he’s the guy right now, and the guy he’s going against thinks he’s the guy,” said Kasey Kahne, whose third-place finish gave him five top-five finishes in six weeks. “I’d rather be in the Chase, but not being in the Chase, it’s pretty fun to sit there and watch.”
Stewart won with a track-record average speed of 152.707, another victory of sorts as the previous record of 151.055 belonged to Edwards, set in his November 2005 victory.
“We’re not counting on them to make mistakes,” Stewart said. “We’re controlling our destiny, and today’s a perfect example of that.”
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