- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2011

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Tony Stewart has run his mouth for almost a month trying to rattle Carl Edwards in the race to NASCAR’s championship.

Edwards has tuned it all out, and on Saturday he did his talking on the track.

Edwards won the pole for Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where the Sprint Cup Series championship will be decided. Edwards goes into the race with a three-point lead over Stewart, who qualified 15th. One of the two will bring an official end to Jimmie Johnson’s record five-year run, and the pole-winning run seemed to indicate Edwards is on pace.

Is it all lining up for Edwards to win his first Cup title?

“I don’t know that I believe in fate, but I do believe that things happen for a reason,” Edwards said. “I do believe that whatever you encounter you have to treat as if that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. But, yeah, this is going really well so far and, hopefully, this helps us all race. We didn’t need to qualify poorly, get a poor pit stall, have some little thorn in our side the whole race, so this will hopefully help us for the whole event.”

But Stewart, a two-time champion, cautioned there’s still 400 miles to be run.

“Don’t start etching his name on the trophy yet,” said Stewart, who is bidding to become the first owner/driver to win the title since Alan Kulwicki in 1992. “I’m excited about it. I’m not known to be much of a qualifier, so 15th, I’m pretty content.”

Edwards turned a lap at 175.467 mph in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford, besting Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne, winner last week at Phoenix.

Kurt Busch qualified fourth and was followed by Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski, Edwards teammate Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. Greg Biffle, another Edwards teammate, qualified eighth while Johnson and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10.

Stewart’s lap for the 15th starting spot was 173.332 mph in a Chevrolet.

He and Edwards had decidedly different strategies during Saturday’s two practice sessions. Rain washed out all Cup activity on Friday, so Edwards and Stewart had to get the most of their 2½ hours on the track.

In the first session, Edwards ran 49 laps and his 10-lap average ranked second overall. Stewart ran 30 laps and ranked third in 10-lap average.

But in the second session, Edwards crew chief Bob Osborne switched the No. 99 into qualifying trim and Edwards ran only three laps, logging the fastest lap of the day.

“We ran the first practice completely in race trim and we felt the best strategy for us was to focus on race trim there, and then focus on qualifying trim the second practice,” Edwards said. He said he cut a tire during the run, which might have been a blessing because it ended their session and “probably helped us from tuning the thing out of contention.”

Stewart had a very busy second session, running 52 more laps and logging in at ninth overall in 10-lap average, and he was confident he had the better strategy.

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