Five years later, Edwards will return to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the championship-deciding, Ford EcoBoost 400 with a chance to capture the title that has eluded him.
Instead of worrying about just one opponent (Stewart – who will run in the final race of his Sprint Cup career), Edwards will face three times the number of championship opponents: Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and six-time champ Jimmie Johnson.
“I’m not too worried about Kyle or Jimmie much,” Edwards said with a laugh following Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
But then Edwards grew serious again, knowing he may have as tough a battle – if not tougher — than he did with Stewart in 2011.
“It’s a pretty stout group,” Edwards said. “I think whoever wins it, they should take a lot of pride in that. I’m really excited to go down there and race. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a while. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) is pumped. He’s ready to go down there now. We’re going to go have a good time … It’s going to be a good race.”
When asked how he handicaps next Sunday’s Championship 4 season finale, Edwards didn’t want to name names or pick picks. Of course, he wants to win it, but he doesn’t want to give any of his three opponents any type of edge.
“I don’t know,” Edwards said. “I mean, it’s going to be a good race. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I don’t think you can pick a winner. I think we’re going to battle it out. It’s going to be a blast.”
Edwards finished 19th in Sunday’s race at Phoenix and was never a factor. It wasn’t by design, but at the same time, he had hoped to go into Homestead with momentum.
“This was somewhat of a frustrating weekend,” Edwards said. “We just didn’t have speed all weekend and then in the race I didn’t do a very good job on the initial couple of starts and lost some track position.
“Then at the end I swore I had a flat tire, but I think maybe Paul (Menard) got into me just a little and turned me sideways. I didn’t feel the impact, but I thought I was going to wreck. Not the day we wanted, but we’ll put this behind us and get ready for Homestead.”