Behind The Scenes

End Of The Chase: Part 3

Editor’s note: Counting down to the season finale Sunday in Miami, Front Row takes you on a tour behind the scenes of ESPN’s NASCAR production on many platforms. Today, an overview of what’s involved in ESPN’s coverage; Saturday, a look at memorable moments on the circuit this season; Sunday, predictions on which driver, Tony Stewart or Carl Edwards, wins the season’s title.

MIAMI — Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are separated by only three points going into today’s season finale for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, which airs live on ESPN at 2 p.m. ET.

At the conclusion of the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, either Edwards will be a first-time champion or Stewart will hoist the Sprint Cup for the third time.

The battle is so close that an informal poll of ESPN’s analysts and reporters was split as to which driver will win. And many of the people doing the picking wanted to hedge their selections.

Edwards leads the standings and has been at or near the front most of the season, and ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little feels that Edwards will win the championship.

“Carl’s been more consistent than Tony all year long and it won’t be any different this weekend,” said Little.

“He is really good at Homestead and has won two of the last three, and didn’t just win by chance because he led the most laps in each.”

Stewart, who has won four of the nine races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, can win the title by winning the race. And ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch is one who thinks that is what will happen.

“Let’s compare this to one of the most memorable heavyweight fights in history,” said Punch, who has covered NASCAR for ESPN since 1984.

“Edwards is Muhammad Ali – smooth, handsome, loves to talk and likes the cameras. Stewart is Joe Frazier – tough as a pine knot, just likes to brawl, has that ‘just bring it on’ mentality.

“Everyone thought Ali was a shoo-in, but “Smokin’ Joe” pulled off the upset. Maybe, just maybe at Homestead, it’s ‘Smoke’ [Stewart’s nickname] again that wins.”

ESPN.com writer David Newton is also picking Stewart, although he admits to not being totally confident in his choice.

“This is one I truly believe is too tough to call,” he said.

“I still believe Carl, as consistent and amazing as he’s been at Homestead, can’t get through the Chase totally unscathed. His worst finish is 11th and that is unheard of in the Chase. So I’m going to go with Tony.”

Others offering their picks were analysts Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Craven, ESPN the Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee, NASCAR Now host and reporter Mike Massaro, ESPN.com motorsports editor K. Lee Davis and pit reporter Dave Burns.

Today’s telecast starts with NASCAR Countdown at 2 p.m. with the race’s green flag at 3:15 p.m.

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