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Woody: Three In The Show With Three To Go

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 2 2011

Jimmie Johnson appears to be out and Carl Edwards appears to be the top candidate to replace him. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

NASCAR’s original Dandy Dozen has been whittled down to a final trio with a realistic shot at the title with three to go, and each has his own special story-line.

Carl Edwards is clinging to a tenuous 8-point lead over charging Tony Stewart. Carl, having soft-peddled his way through the last two races is going to have to kick it in gear, starting Sunday at Texas.

Stewart has served notice that he isn’t going to allow Edwards to coast to the championship, and neither will third-place Kevin Harvick.

Edwards has two of NASCAR’s toughest customers breathing down his neck.

I don’t think fourth-place Brad Keselowski can worm his/way back into contention. He would have to have three super runs combined with three super flops by Edwards, Stewart and Harvick. That miracle trifecta is not likely to happen.

Matt Kenseth’s once-strong title hopes went out the window with his miserable day at Martinsville last Sunday. He crashed, finished 31st, and dropped three spots to fifth. Bye-bye championship.

The list of viable candidates to win the 2011 Cup championship has been trimmed considerably. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

And of course the biggest story is not who’s going to win it, but who’s not: Jimmie Johnson.

There’ll be no Mr. Six Time next season. Back-to-back stumbles at Charlotte and Talladega put Jimmie in too deep of a hole, and not even last Sunday’s second-place finish at Martinsville could bail him out. Johnson nosed up one spot, to 6th, but with three to go that’s not going to get it.

Meanwhile Fan Favorite Dale Earnhardt is a Chase spectator, buried back in 9th, and my pre-season title pick, Jeff Gordon, is history in 10th.

The big question going into the next three races is who’s the most determined driver? We know Stewart’s tough as a truck-stop steak, and Harvick will eat nails and spit out thumbtacks. But Edwards …?

Is Carl made of stern enough stuff to hold off two of NASCAR’s hardest chargers?

Frankly, he hasn’t looked like it in the last couple of races. He seems to have gone into his prevent defense, and any football fan knows what usually happens … he prevents himself from winning.

That’s the intriguing question starting Sunday at Texas: Will Edwards race to win, or race to not lose? There’s a big difference.

A championship probably hangs in the balance.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 2 2011
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