Tony Stewart: Revelations from the Newest NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2011

Tony Stewart: Revelations from the Newest NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion

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    In the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Tony Stewart's problem-plagued drive from as far back as 40th position will forever be known as one of the epic runs for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.

    Stewart is a bit of an old-school racer and one of the best drivers to get up on the wheel of a racecar. He is unpredictable and much different from the five-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, he dethroned.

    In only his third year as the owner/driver of Stewart-Haas Racing, he captured his third Cup title, with the previous two being won while he was a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing. 

    He has been victorious under three different Cup series names, winning before implementation of the Chase and in the COT as well as the previous genre of Cup cars.

    In what seemed to be a startling personnel change at SHR, Darian Grubb, the crew chief for Stewart, was told he would no longer hold that position even after his driver had begun his winning ways in the Chase.

    Despite knowing for some six weeks before the finale that he would no longer have his job, Grubb didn't miss a beat, giving his driver strong cars off the truck.

    By the time Stewart was crowned the 2011 Cup champion, he had won an amazing half of the 10 Chase races.

    In this slideshow, you will read some of the thoughts three-time Cup title winner Stewart has on various topics related to NASCAR, Stewart Haas Racing and more.

    Quotes in this article were obtained directly from the source via a telephone interview.

Winning as Owner/Driver

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    Tony Stewart is the first owner/driver to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship since Alan Kulwicki did it in 1992.

    He doesn't really compare his accomplishment to that of the late driver.

    Kulwicki sacrificed much to build and maintain his team and had little support with his relatively small operation, yet he accomplished winning the title in NASCAR's elite series.

    Stewart was already a champion in not only NASCAR, but other series as well, when he left Joe Gibbs Racing to start his own operation, Stewart Haas Racing.

    Stewart became partners with Gene Haas, who had already established a racing operation. Stewart also got the full support of Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports for engines, chassis and technical support.

    It was a challenge for our new NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, but hardly as tough as it was for the Wisconsin native who did it the hard way.

Changes to the Chase Tracks

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    Tony Stewart could only find fault with one track in the 10 tracks that make up the Chase format, and that was Talladega.

    Stewart addressed the two-car tandem racing, saying, "The championship should be decided on individual performance. I hate to see individual drivers that may or may not have a teammate have to rely on someone else to determine their fate."

    He would like to see the Talladega race replaced with another venue and moved ahead of the Chase.

    Stewart really doesn't think a road-course race needs to be in the Chase, though he would really enjoy it since he does well on that type of track.

No. 10 Car and Danica Patrick

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    Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick unveiled the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet that Patrick and Stewart Haas Racing will run in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for 10 races in 2012.

    Currently, Stewart does not have sponsorship to enable him to run the remaining races, but he is seeking someone to bring in the funding that would allow him to run the No. 10 team for the full year.

    It would be beneficial to the total operation to be able to run three teams for an entire season.

Bookends to a Five-Time Champ

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    Tony Stewart won the NASCAR Cup championship in 2005, just before Jimmie Johnson began winning his five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles.

    Stewart then won this season, putting an end to Johnson's reign.

    He really sees no value to the " bookend effect" other than to be able to say that he was the one to win a title at the beginning and end of his run which he called "a remarkable and unbelievable feat."

    He prefers to refer to the bookend title as a "fun fact."

Final Chase Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway

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    After winning four races during the 10-week Chase, Tony Stewart fought adversity at the finale in Homestead to battle Carl Edwards for his fifth win and the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

    Stewart said, "It wasn't the hardest race I had ever driven. It was one of the best races. It was the most gratifying experience of my career."

    Certainly, after what we saw during the Ford 400, it will be quite some time before we see a repeat performance like the run Stewart had—if we ever do.

    Stewart said, "It was a big, big, big weekend for us."

2012 Season and Chase

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    Tony Stewart is happy with the new points system implemented by NASCAR and likes the fact that the winner gets a bit more of a prize at the end of the day with the three points.

    So far as the 2012 season, he really doesn't see any new superstar regulars in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that will be huge surprises.

    He described those who will be driving to make the Chase as " the same cast of characters."

    There are drivers moving up to the Cup level from the NASCAR Nationwide series who will make an impact at some point.

Future Superstar in Cup Series

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    Tony Stewart does have a driver that he expects to be a serious contender in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series once he becomes a full-time driver and gets some seat time with a Cup car.

    Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship this season.

    He drives for Roush Fenway Racing and may or may not be running part-time this next season in a Cup car, depending on sponsorship.

    Stenhouse ran a USAC car for Stewart, and he had an opportunity to watch him then. The new Sprint Cup champion thinks he will be a standout driver in NASCAR's top series.

    Stewart said, "I think he (Stenhouse) is the next guy that deserves a big break."

A.J. Foyt

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    Tony Stewart had a boyhood hero and his name was A.J. Foyt.

    Foyt was so very important to Stewart that he picked the number that he had used when he raced; the Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet he drives has the No. 14 on its sides.

    Stewart was doing a show with ESPN shortly after his win at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They told him there was a "surprise phone call" during the interview.

    According to Stewart, Foyt said, "he thought it was the best race he had ever seen me run."

    Stewart was extremely flattered he made such a comment, and it meant a great deal coming from a man he idolized during childhood and now calls a friend.

    The three-time Cup champion was very proud to see his No. 14 Chevrolet in Victory Lane at Homestead, knowing it had taken him to a third title.

Media Attention

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    It is no secret Tony Stewart has had his moments with the media. He has had little patience with questions being asked repeatedly or deemed unworthy of an answer.

    Being a driver/owner has tamed Stewart's comments to some degree because he realizes the importance of his sponsors.

    The media attention is intense for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, and that is certainly the case for Stewart, who is the first new one after Jimmie Johnson's five-year reign.

    When asked about the the media attention being easier now, Stewart said, "Most definitely, taking the time to talk about something great that has happened to you."

    It just may be a kinder, gentler Stewart who deals with the media in 2012.

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