Chase for the Sprint Cup: 4 Reasons Tony Stewart Will Win the Championship
In the fresh moments of victory lane after the conclusion to the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup was given some fire.
"He better be worried. That's all I've got to say," Winner Tony Stewart said in Victory Lane. "He's not going to sleep for the next three weeks."
With that one sound bite, Tony Stewart made his intentions clear to points leader Carl Edwards: I'm coming after you.
Since Stewart's move to Stewart-Haas Racing prior to beginning of the 2009 season, the once brash and volatile driver had almost become the very driver he despised for so long. Shying away from conflict, Stewart began saying all the right things and avoiding controversy. His production had also slipped on the racetrack, with many questioning if Stewart had spread himself too thin by taking on the responsibilities of ownership.
But since the start of the Chase, the one they call "Smoke" has smoked the competition, winning four of the eight races and firmly cementing himself as one of the drivers to beat. Now, after beating Edwards again this past Sunday in Texas, Stewart heads to Phoenix only three points back and with the Cup within his grasp.
Experience of a Past Champion
The pedigree of one Anthony Wayne Stewart is almost unparalleled in today's racing landscape. The man named after his childhood hero, Anthony Joseph (A.J.) Foyt, has been almost a throwback to the old times, when drivers raced whatever, whenever.
Growing up racing dirt karts in Indiana, Tony progressed through the open wheel ranks, sprints and midgets, winning in everything he drove. In 1995, then driving in the United States Auto Club, Smoke won the "Triple Crown,'' becoming champion in the midgets, sprints and silver crown divisions. Then came a championship in the Izod IndyCar Series during the 1997 season before moving on to NASCAR the following season.
Since his move to stock cars, Stewart has two championships, 55 career NASCAR victories (Cup, Nationwide, Trucks), as well as victories in some the of the biggest events on the schedule.
Other notable racing accomplishments include two victories in the famed Chili Bowl, a midget event attracting some 250 competitors, a race win in the famous Turkey Night Grand Prix and a pole during the 1996 Indianapolis 500. With this past success and experience, Tony Stewart will have a huge advantage over Carl Edwards.
After a regular season that saw Stewart have only three top-fives, 11 top-10s and no victories, Smoke barely made the chase, having to race his way in on the final night. But since then, Stewart has four wins, including the last two, and six top-10s during the eight-race chase. With two races to go in the season, Tony looks to use his momentum and drive to a third Sprint Cup title.
"I'm pretty sure what we did on the race track said everything we needed to tell him today. I don't know how you top that," Stewart said. "The funny thing, I don't feel like I have to say anything. I feel like I've already got it done."
"I mean we are set on it, man. This is just the way it's going to be."
Momentum can be a scary thing in the racing, and Stewart has it. When everything is going well, a driver feels like he can't be stopped, and he can win everything.
One of Tony Stewart's most well-known attributes has been his attitude, whether working to his advantage in winning two titles, or disadvantage, as when involved with a photographer back in the summer of 2002 and had to complete anger management. But when he's on, he can get under a driver's skin like no other, causing mental errors among other things.
After the past two victories, Stewart has come out and stated he is set on winning the title and Edwards needs to watch out. Comments like those are all part of his mind games, forcing drivers as good as Edwards into mistakes. Carl has done a good job of reminding people he is the driver who leads the points, albeit by three points, but it almost seems like he's trying to convince himself he's the man to beat, when deep down he knows he's chasing Stewart.
This is Stewart's championship to lose and his attitude is letting people know this.
With only two races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and the Chase field figuratively narrowed down to just Edwards and Stewart, the teams for both respective drivers will be putting all of their considerable resources in to claiming the title: Roush/Fenway and Ford for Edwards, Stewart/Haas and Chevrolet for Stewart.
But the advantage for Stewart lies in his connection with Hendrick Motorsports, in which he is a satellite team, being supplied with engines and chassis from the legendary race team.
Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, is a winner of 10 Cup championships, as well as the past five with Jimmie Johnson.
Having those resources backing you up is just one of the many reasons Tony Stewart will be holding up the Cup in Homestead to conclude the season.