Edwards, Stewart battle for Sprint Cup title

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For Carl Edwards to win the Sprint Cup Series championship this season he just has to hold on for two more weeks – but he’s got to expect a challenge from the surging Tony Stewart when the circuit next hits the track on Sunday afternoon in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (3:00pm ET, ESPN).

Edwards picked up a respectable second-place result at the AAA Texas 500 over the weekend, but he still managed to lose some ground in the driver standings at that event because Stewart took the checkered flag. That puts Edwards just three points ahead of Stewart in the points race with two events left in the campaign.

Here’s a look at the updated driver standings heading into the Kobalt Tools 500 . . .

01 Carl Edwards (Leader)
02 Tony Stewart -3
03 Kevin Harvick -33
04 Matt Kenseth -38
05 Brad Keselowski -49
06 Jimmie Johnson -55
07 Dale Earnhardt Jr. -79
08 Jeff Gordon -81
09 Kurt Busch -87
10 Denny Hamlin -99
11 Kyle Busch -100
12 Ryan Newman -103

Stewart has been the hottest driver in NASCAR since the Chase for the Sprint Cup began back in September, winning four of the last eight races to put himself in a prime position to grab the series title at the end of the month. Edwards hasn’t won a Chase race yet this season, but his consistency has kept him atop the standings.

And on the Oddsmaker NASCAR betting board Edwards and Stewart share -120 odds to win the Sprint Cup this season, with nearest competitor Kevin Harvick back at +4000 to win the series championship. Matt Kenseth sits at +5000 odds, defending champion Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski have both been pegged at +7500 odds, and the rest of the Chase field’s championship chances have been written off.

Edwards is the defending Kobalt Tools 500 champion, so he’ll have that past success in his favor on Sunday afternoon, while Stewart ended up back in 17th place at this event last season. Johnson, Harvick, and Kenseth ended up fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively, at the Kobalt Tools 500 in 2010, while Keselowski finished in 42nd spot.

Johnson, now a longshot to win the drivers championship once again this season, has claimed four victories at Phoenix International Raceway in the past, with all of them coming between 2007 and 2009. Harvick swept the Phoenix events in 2006, and Kenseth picked up a win on the track in the Checker Auto Parts 500 in 2002.

Stewart also has a Cup win at Phoenix on his resume, but you have to go all the way back to 1999 to find it – he won the Checker Auto Parts/Dura Lube 500 that season.

Jeff Gordon, who has slipped badly in the Chase standings, won both the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix earlier this season and that same race back in 2007. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (twice), Jeff Burton (twice), Mark Martin (twice), Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, and Kurt Busch have all visited Victory Lane at Phoenix in the past.

Oddsmaker will have all your NASCAR lines and betting odds for this week’s event. The season wraps up on Sunday, November 20 at the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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