He entered the chase tied for second with Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson, but after the first chase race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a 14th place finish, Tony Stewart quickly realized that the chase for the Sprint Cup Championship was finally here.
Stewart who came into the chase as more of a sentimental favorite along with Mark Martin, has quickly found out that it’s a lot easier to lose points than what it is to pick them up during the last 10 weeks of the season.
Even though Stewart was able to pick up a win at Kansas, he would only move up one spot in the standings to fourth and still find himself 67 points behind chase leader Mark Martin.
Johnson, who won at Dover, would eventually pick up his second win of the chase at Auto Club Speedway along with the points lead, while Stewart would add another 17 points to the hole that he already dug putting him 84 behind the new points leader.
With five weeks left Stewart has a bigger hole to dig himself out of, knowing that a win this weekend at Martinsville could help erase a portion of the 155 points that he is behind.
Stewart also knows that time is running out, and that he can’t continue to just give these valuable points away, unlike the regular season when he had 26 races to dig himself out.
Especially against the No. 48 team, who are always looking for ways on how the C.O.T. could work to their advantage, instead of worrying about its faults which would otherwise do them no good.
“Even if we win the race for the last five weeks in a row, there is still no guarantee that we could close the gap (on leader Jimmie Johnson).”
Stewart also added that, “All we can do is go for broke now. Anything can happen to any of the teams at Martinsville (or any time during the Chase).”
In 21 Martinsville starts, Stewart has two wins, eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes with three poles, with his last win coming in 2006 while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.
But even these stats have not put a damper on the outlook that Stewart has for his team, and even though optimism doesn’t win championships, but its still good for the morale of a team.
“Until somebody comes up and says okay, mathematically you are out of it, until then, we have got a shot. That is all I can say about it. That is all we know.”
Stewart may not win the championship this season, but you still have to give the team an A for the effort and the hard work they put in to achieve what they set out to do.
And after this statement, it’s probably easy to say that Stewart doesn’t spend much time in the No. 48 team’s garage. “There is no blueprint that says, this is how you win or don’t win a championship.”