Posted By: David Morgan – Follow at @damorgan86
June 28, 2016
Just like Kyle Busch did in 2015, Tony Stewart followed the same script that Busch did last season in that he rebounded from an early season injury to power his way back to victory lane on the twists and turns of the Sonoma road course.
As we all know, Busch used his Sonoma win as a springboard to additional wins and eventually his first championship, so the question has to be asked: Can Stewart do the same this go around?
Barring a complete collapse over the next 10 races, Stewart should be well within the top-30 in points and by that point, all bets are off. In Stewart’s last championship season, no one, including Stewart himself, gave the No. 14 team a chance to win the title, but Stewart went on a tear when the Chase began as he won five of the 10 races to win his third series title.
Now, I know that the Stewart of 2016 is not the Stewart of 2011 and before, but Sunday’s win at Sonoma has seemed to energize Stewart in his quest for one final title to leave the Sprint Cup Series on top of the world. If Stewart can use the momentum from Sonoma to give himself a boost heading toward the Chase, I wouldn’t put it past Stewart to be a championship contender by the time all is said and done.
“I’m going to go with the same approach we had before. I told them, I think we’re gaining on it. I think it’s a scenario where you crawl before the walk, you walk before you jog, jog before you run, run before you sprint. It’s phases that we’re going through. I felt like Michigan and Pocono we got jogging, and we’re getting closer to being where we need to be. We’re not there yet, but we’ve still got time to get there, and we’ve gained a bunch of ground in a short amount of time, and if we can keep making that ground and keep getting better, who knows,” said Stewart.
“I mean, you know how I am. I sat there the whole media day in ’11 and said, I’m wasting my time and all your time being here because I’m not going to be a factor in this thing, and then we went out and won the first two races and won five of them. I’m not that smart, obviously, so don’t ask me, I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ve got to get there first, though. Daytona is going to be a big hurdle. As much as you want to go win that thing, it’s crisis management more than anything, I think, because I think if we can get through that, I feel like our performance is good enough to get us the rest of the way there. We’ve just got to take care of ourselves to get through there.”
“I’m going for more, just for the record. I see pens going crazy. I’m not saying I’m laying down, I’m saying if that’s the only one I get this year, then I’ll be content. But I don’t think ‑‑ I think you’ve known me long enough, you guys know that I don’t lay down for anything. All you’ve got to do is just give me that little bit of hope, and I’ll run with it.”
Of the remaining tracks on the schedule, Stewart has wins at all but two of them (Darlington and Kentucky), so it will be entertaining to see just how well Stewart can perform as the season winds to a close over the next five months.