The big story from this weekend is undoubtedly Tony Stewart snapping a winless streak that dates back to last July at Daytona and the success of Stewart-Haas Racing the last couple of weeks. To a person, every team member yesterday was sure to say that they are not out of the woods yet, but they have two weeks of momentum to build on heading into Pocono.
At the midway point before The Chase begins, Tony Stewart catapulted himself into prime position for a Wildcard spot as he is the only driver between the 11th and 20th spots (16th) in the standings with a win.
Greg Zipadelli, Competition Director at Stewart-Haas Racing, expressed an enormous sense of relief telling Claire B. Lang of SiriusXM that he almost cancelled his Twitter account because so many people were sounding off through the social media platform criticizing him and the rest of the SHR team.
All of that talk has washed away, at least for a few days. Folks within SHR are confident coming off two weeks of positive results – including a win – and heading into the hot summer months where Stewart tends to excel. Stewart believes they’ve identified and begun to fix a major problem as he’s now able to drive out of the corners with conviction, something he hasn’t felt like he’s been able to do all year.
Stewart’s win has not come without controversy. There is a lot of speculation around Jimmie Johnson getting black flagged on the restart with many believing the 48 would have won otherwise. While that is likely the case, it’s certainly not the point. I was at the track yesterday and after seeing the Monster chew up a lot of top cars including Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin, it becomes obvious that putting yourself in a position to win and doing so is only to the credit of that driver and their team and not the fault of another.
Jimmie Johnson may have lost that race, but Tony Stewart also won it. It’s an important lesson learned from the old adage that ‘it ain’t over ’til it’s over.’ Words echoed by Steve Addington, Stewart’s crew chief, adding that you never count the win until the race is over. When pressed on what point in the race he thought they had the win in the bag, he said, “When we crossed the start/finish line.”
And let’s not forget that Stewart wasn’t handed the lead after the Johnson black flag. He was P2 and only after making the decision to run to the outside to pass Montoya did he capture the lead. Of the move, Stewart told SiriusXM after the race, “I was willing to finish 3rd in order to have a shot at the win.”
Either way, Tony Stewart and his team, along with his legion of fans, have a lot to be excited about heading into Pocono where Smoke has won twice before and has an average finish of 11th.
But if the question isn’t about Stewart’s track record and more about SHR, that bodes well too. In eight starts at Pocono as a car owner, Stewart has finished in the Top 5 five times including a win, poled three times and finished outside the Top 10 just twice – one of those being an 11th place finish.
Do you think the Monster was the turning point for Tony Stewart’s season? Let me know on Twitter @fordNASCAR.