NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Preview: Tony Stewart

Christopher LeoneSenior Analyst ISeptember 14, 2012

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 14:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, looks on in the garage during practcie for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2012 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Every day here at Bleacher Report, we'll be counting down the 12 drivers in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup by posting two driver previews, breaking down how they got in and what they're going to do with their berth.

Today, we look at a pair of three-win drivers: fourth place Brad Keselowski and, here, defending champion Tony Stewart.


TONY STEWART, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing

CHASE POSITION: Third, 2009 points (Three wins)

MAKING THE CHASE: Stewart clinched a wild-card berth at Atlanta with a mid-pack finish, but cemented his top 10 place with authority at Richmond by placing fourth.

LAST 10 RACES: Despite scoring his third win of the season at Daytona, Stewart finished 19th or worse in four consecutive races from Watkins Glen to Atlanta. His average finish of 16.4 in the Race to the Chase is a full three positions off of his season average.

LAST YEAR'S CHASE: Stewart had the best Chase in history by virtue of victories, taking five of them on the way to posting an out-of-this-world average finish of 6.3. His wins came at Chicago and Loudon to start the Chase, and Martinsville, Texas and Homestead to close it out.

AT CHASE TRACKS: The bookend tracks at Chicago (8.7 average finish) and Homestead (11.5) serve as Stewart's two strongest Chase ovals, and his average finish is under 15 at nine of the 10 locations (with Talladega being the only exception). Twenty-one of Stewart's 47 career Sprint Cup wins have come on Chase tracks, as he's taken at least one victory on all of them.

OUTLOOK: Stewart comes into this year's Chase much stronger than he did last year, with three wins instead of last year's empty victory column. Crew chief Steve Addington replaced last year's title-winning pit boss, Darian Grubb, with stronger results early, but similar doldrums in the middle of the year. Stewart won't bet on another world-beating tear like last year, but if he can capture even half of that magic with Addington, he'll have a shot at defending last year's crown.

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