As the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series edges to its close at Homestead-Miami Speedway in four weeks, two-time champion and current Chase competitor Tony Stewart is continuing to take the stress of the 36 race season “one day at a time.”
As the series heads to Martinsville this weekend for the Tums Fast Relief 500, Chevrolet owner/driver Tony Stewart has been up and down the Chase leaderboard, coming into the race weekend fourth in points behind Ford drivers Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth and the Dodge of Brad Keselowski. He’s got Martinsville’s spring winner Kevin Harvick breathing down his neck.
Stewart, who told the media on Tuesday if he weren’t racing NASCAR stock cars would easily get into sprint car racing full-time again, is using teammate Ryan Newman’s base setup for this short track, realizing his teammate has the better baseline. “We know it’s going to be a little bit different for me and our driving style; mine and Ryan’s are a little bit different. But I feel that’s a good place to start for the weekend.”
Stewart is now the only Cup driver who’s won the championship both by accumulating points throughout the season and by winning the 10-race Chase. “With the old format of season-long standings, you only had a handful of guys that still mathematically had a shot to win the championship. It’s definitely a lot more stressful trying to do [win] it in a ten-race format versus a 36-week format.”
“Smoke” is able to be both owner and driver because he’s good at delegating responsibility. “I feel like our guys and our attitude in our shop is very, very positive right now. We have got a really strong group of true racers that have been involved with the team, guys that have been involved with racing for a long time in different series. They are really keen and savvy when it comes to keeping their morale high and giving 100 percent all along.”
The former IndyCar champion understands that the safety record for both sides of the sport is exceptionally good. “I think safety has come a long way in all our sanctioning bodies across the board. But,” Stewart reminds, “you’re still not going to make it 100 percent safe all the time. You’re always going to have that element of danger that’s involved in racing.”