Carl Edwards has been waiting five years for this moment

Carl Edwards has been waiting a long time for this moment: Five years to be exact.

In 2011, back when he drove for Jack Roush, Edwards and Tony Stewart put on an epic battle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship that literally could not have been any closer.

After 10 races in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Edwards and Stewart wound up tied with 2,403 points each. But because Stewart had won five races that season — all in the Chase — and Edwards only one, Stewart was crowned the series champion on a tiebreaker.

And Edwards went away frustrated at coming so agonizingly close to winning but not sealing the deal.

But now, after winning Sunday night’s rain-shortened and rain-delayed AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Edwards joins Jimmie Johnson as the first two of four drivers who will race for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.

The final two spots at Homestead will be settled next week at Phoenix International Raceway, the host track for the third race in Chase Round of 8.

But it’s Homestead, where he lost the 2011 title, that’s on Edwards’ mind.

“I felt like ever since that checkered flag fell, man, I just wanted that opportunity again,” said Edwards, when asked about losing to Stewart in 2011. “Now we get it. It took a couple years. But I’m ready.”

Edwards’ victory reignited what looked like a lost championship run.

In the first race in the Chase Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway last week, Edwards cut a tire and hit the wall, finishing 36th of 40 drivers in the field.

That put Edwards in a deep points hole, and he pretty much needed to win at Texas or next week at Phoenix to advance. And now that he’s done that, Edwards is loving life again.

“It’s so much fun, you guys,” Edwards told reporters at Texas after his big victory. “Just the idea of getting to race for a championship, getting that opportunity.”

And he played down comparisons to the 2011 race, which was run in a different format than the one NASCAR has had in place since 2014 and is using again this time.

“It’s not just going there like we did in 2011 to race against one guy in championship form,” said Edwards. “We’re going to go there and race against three guys, one of which is a six-time champion (Johnson), top of his game. I know whoever else in there is going to be tough as nails.”

The thought of running for a championship again gave Edwards a reason to smile.

“I mean, it’s cool,” Edwards said. “If we’re able to win that, stand here 14 days from now with that championship trophy, we’re going to have earned it. That’s as good as it gets.”

Yes, it is.