The Chase! NASCAR Star Tony Stewart Triumphs at Sprint Cup New Hampshire, Claims Lead
Charging into the heralded ‘Chase’ in 2011, Tony Stewart hadn’t been faring very well….0-26 to be exact.
That changed quick.
Just two races into the 10-race road to the NASCAR Sprint Cup, O’s superstar is undefeated after claiming a resounding victory this past weekend at the Sylvania 200 NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
His 41st total career Sprint Cup success and his third in New Hampshire came on the heels of his first win of the season at Chicagoland Speedway a mere six days ago.
“We may not have been the best car at the end,” said Tony, who started 20th in the 43-car field. “Clint (Bowyer) was just a tick better than us. I definitely did not know he was in a situation to worry about fuel. So the good thing is Darian (Grubb, crew chief for Stewart) told us we were two, three laps to the good. I got to run hard all the way to the end.”
For most of the race, however, he wasn’t a shoe in by any means. Tony led the final two laps around the oval…but after fellow Oakley driver Bowyer ran out of gas before taking the white flag.
It was the fewest laps led for him in a won race – with his previous lowest laps total coming five laps in October 2006 at Kansas Speedway.
Ironically, Tony’s last run at Sylvania last year had him leading the race – only to run out of gas on the last turn of the last lap.
“Man, what a way to win it,” he continued – recalling when Bowyer took the win last year. “Such an irony from last year where we ran out of gas coming to the finish. You hate to see anybody lose it that way, but you’ll take a win any way you can get it right now.”
The eyebrow-raising storyline is only topped by the fact that he now leads the Chase.
“It’s amazing that it happened like that. Clint was one of the first guys that called last year and, as happy as he was that he won the race, he knew how disappointing it was for us. When he called he said, ‘I’m sorry about what happened.’ You don’t want to win them that way and you don’t want to see guys lose them that way. This is a sport where guys have a high level of respect for what happens and how it happens. To have a win get away from you that way – it’s disappointing for anybody.”
Plenty of respect is shared between the two Oakley speed demons.
“We definitely know what it was like last year and can sympathize with him. It shows the character he has. He was one of the first guys on pit road to get to me and congratulate me. He was laughing about it. He’s thinking about the same thing – how ironic it was that last year the roles were reversed. You love winning, but you hate to see somebody lose a race that way.”
And it’s safe to say, the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing isn’t resting on its laurels. There’s plenty of work to do.
“The celebrating isn’t going to last long. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m proud of our group. I’m confident that we’ve got a group of guys who are very, very focused right now. The cars don’t know anything about momentum, but the people do. This is the perfect scenario to go into these last eight weeks, for sure.”
Congratulations to Tony – who became only the second rider in the Chase’s history to claim the first two races of the Chase.