News & Media


Surly Stewart tired of same o'l questions about season

July 15, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Frustration sets in when faced with answering inquiries to 2011 shortcomings

LOUDON, N.H. -- Tony Stewart is tired.

The driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet he also owns is tired of being asked what he considers the same old questions about his Sprint Cup season. He's weary of being quizzed on why he has yet to win a race. He's frustrated with his season and the queries about what it's like to wear the dual hats of driver and owner these days.

"Are you happy when things aren't going the way you like it to go? Makes you frustrated, doesn't it?"

--TONY STEWART

But mostly, it appears Stewart simply is sick of being mediocre.

Entering this Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Stewarts sits outside the all-important top 10 in the point standings. He's in 11th -- only two behind Denny Hamlin in 10th.

Ryan Newman, who drives the No. 39 Chevy that comprises the other half of the Stewart-Haas Racing, is ninth in points and doesn't yet have a win this season, either. Newman said he has noticed the increasingly frustrated demeanor being displayed of late by his boss/teammate. He also said he completely understands it.

"Yes, he is frustrated," Newman said. "For that matter, I'm ahead of him in points and I'm frustrated, too. I understand it and I understand our competitive nature -- not amongst each other, but amongst our situation in the points.

"That's what drives us. That's what makes us better. That's what makes us better teammates and a better organization -- to not be OK with where we are now."

Stewart was 15 minutes late for his appointed weekly meeting with the media Friday, and implored the press to come up with some new, better questions in a contentious manner when he finally did arrive.

Asked how he would assess his season both as driver and owner, he curtly replied: "Same as we did last week and the week before. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're working on it."

Asked if he was frustrated, he replied: "I am frustrated because I keep having to answer the question. ... Are you happy when things aren't going the way you like it to go? Makes you frustrated, doesn't it? So yes, we're frustrated."

Yet it's not as if the two Stewart-Haas cars are far removed from contention for the 12 Chase for the Sprint Cup spots with eight races remaining before the sport's "playoffs" begin. The top 10 in points qualify for the Chase, as well as two wild-card entries that will be claimed by the drivers with the most wins outside the top 10 but inside the top 20 in points after the first 26 races.

That puts a premium on winning races, which Stewart and Newman have not yet been able to do. But Stewart said it has not changed his approach, or Newman's.

"It's just business as usual for us," Stewart said. "Try to get as many points as we can and hope we can get in on our merit of points, and not have to rely on the wild card."

There have been signs recently that the Stewart-Haas tandem might be beginning to turn the corner. The pair qualified 1-2 Friday for this Sunday's race, with Newman winning the pole and Stewart claiming second.

New Hampshire

Lineup
Pos.DriverSpeedTime
2.T. Stewart 135.064 28.200
3.D. Reutimann 134.763 28.263
4.Ku. Busch 134.34028.352
5.Keselowski 134.150 28.392

* Track record falls as SHR scores first all-front row

Stewart has a history of getting hot as the summer heats up. Just past the halfway mark of last season, he ripped off five consecutive top-10 finishes that included a second at Pocono and a fifth at Indianapolis. He went on to win two races before the season ended -- at Atlanta and at Auto Club Speedway in California, respectively.

Stewart also has led laps in each of the past four races, in six of the past seven and in seven of the past nine -- although on three of those occasions, it was only one lap. Stewart wants to get back to where he was earlier in the season, when he led 59 laps and finished seventh at Phoenix and when he led 163 en route to finishing second at Las Vegas. At that point in the season, after the first three races, he was first in points.

Since that time, it's been a struggle for Stewart. Not only on the track, but to keep his cool during interview sessions in which he insists the questions always remain the same. Or perhaps because he knows they won't change until his on-track performance improves and he gets back to Victory Lane.

"Ultimately, we want to be first or second [in the races] in either order, so yeah, I'm sure he's frustrated," Newman said. "This is crunch time and this has usually been his time, but it hasn't been this year. ... That's going to happen from time to time. Everything does cycle, but you don't want to see that part of the cycle when it's your teammate."

Or your owner.

Stewart did make it clear Friday that he still enjoys being an owner, despite the additional challenges and inevitable frustrations that accompany the joys of having himself or Newman post a strong finish.

"I like what I'm doing. I enjoy it still," Stewart said. "I don't know what you want me to say. I'm still just as happy doing it as I was two years ago when I started doing this as a car owner and a driver.

"Nothing has changed from that side. Every week is a challenge. Every week is a different obstacle. You work hard to try to accomplish the goal each week. It hasn't changed."