Under the Spotlight: Stewart Says No Pressure in Securing Chase Spot

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

Stewart-Haas Racing driver Tony Stewart finished third in Tuesday’s AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta which was rescheduled from Sunday night due to rain. Stewart remains 10th in the standings and in good position to earn a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

The Chase field will be set following this Saturday night’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond. Stewart is just two points behind ninth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 23 points ahead of Brad Keselowski who currently sits in 11th and has earned himself a wild card spot based on wins.

In order for Stewart to be assured a spot in the Chase, he must finish 18th or better at Richmond despite the performance of any other driver– sounds simple.

Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet has seemed to go unnoticed this season, despite being consistent. So far this season he has earned three top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, but has yet to score a pole or a victory, making this the first winless season of his career. Last season, Stewart’s wins came toward the end leaving ample time this season for the Office Depot/Mobil 1 team to earn a trip to victory lane.

In discussing the highs and lows of this season Stewart said, “definitely not happy with where we are, but I don’t think anybody really is. I think everybody feels like there are things they can do better, and some of those organizations are questioning what they have to do to get better. We’re one of those teams right now.”

Despite the overall performance of the Stewart-Haas organization, both Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman are within the top-10 in points and Newman has already secured himself a spot in the Chase.

Looking at the big picture, some would say the two-time Sprint Cup champion has a 50/50 chance of finishing 18th or better in Saturday’s race as just a little over half of his races this season have ended with a 10th or better finish.

Others might say that Stewart’s successful record at Richmond has all but handed him his spot in the Chase. The driver has three Sprint Cup and two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at Richmond, nine top-fives, 16 top-10s and an average finish of 11th. He has completed 98.2 percent of the laps run at the three-quarter mile track.

Stewart acknowledges Richmond as his favorite track on the circuit and says, “it seems like we have to race ourselves and race the racetrack versus racing each other a lot of times.”

One would think that a driver who is battling for his seventh Chase appearance, third Sprint Cup title and first win of the season, on top of being a team owner, would probably be feeling a bit of pressure.

Since the start of the Chase in 2004, Stewart has been locked in to the Chase all but one time in addition to this year.

Stewart explains that pressure has never been an issue and says “I just try to keep it real simple. I really don’t try to over-think it. I don’t try to over-calculate everything. I’m focused on Saturday night, then once Saturday is over with, I’ll worry about what we’re going to do for Chicagoland next week. I literally take it by a seven-day cycle at a time. Atlanta was last week, so it really doesn’t matter what we did there. We are at a totally different racetrack this week. So no matter what happened last week or two weeks ago or two months ago, we can’t change any of it. We’re better off taking all of our energy and focusing on this coming week instead of focusing on something we can’t change.”
Under the Spotlight: Stewart Says No Pressure in Securing Chase Spot Under the Spotlight: Stewart Says No Pressure in Securing Chase Spot Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, September 09, 2011 Rating: 5