News & Media


Stewart more than satisfied with running second

July 17, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

LOUDON, N.H. -- Owner/driver Tony Stewart worked Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on little more than three hours of sleep, but after finishing second in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 -- part of the first 1-2 finish in the three-year history of Stewart-Haas Racing -- he was blissfully unaware of how tired he should have been.

The fact that race-winning teammate Ryan Newman vaulted himself into a possible spot in the Chase was one thing. With Stewart and Newman having the fastest cars on the race track on the last lap -- with Stewart only .01 seconds slower than Newman -- that's virtually nirvana.

It provided an exclamation point to a weekend in which Newman won his first pole in 41 races and Stewart started next to him -- sharing the front row was also a Stewart-Haas first -- and in which they led 167 of 301 laps.

"Man, this is one hell of a perfect weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing," Stewart said immediately after exiting his No. 14 Chevrolet. "It was a sweet 1-2 in qualifying and 1-2 in the race. I'm so damned proud I can't see straight."

Stewart had flown from New Hampshire Saturday after practice to race in the Kings Royal World of Outlaws Sprint Car race at Eldora Speedway, which Stewart owns. Stewart said he arrived back at 5 a.m. Sunday and got up at 8:30.

That was an odd entr e to a long, hot day that ended with Newman slowing up to save fuel and Stewart -- who needs to win a race as badly as Newman does -- chasing him down. Stewart was smiling more after finishing second by just .773 seconds after closing to within .580 seconds with just two laps to go.

"I think hindsight being 20/20, I don't mind running second and having [Newman] win the race versus us winning the race and him running out of fuel," Stewart said. "This is a much more gratifying weekend for me.

"I was happy, period. I mean, you know when you're in that situation as an organization; it can't get any better than that. I can promise you, I didn't leave anything out there. That was as hard as I could run till the end. I couldn't get the rest of the way. I couldn't get any further than that."

In the 91-race history of Stewart-Haas, Newman has won twice and finished second twice. Stewart has six wins and nine seconds in the same period.

"This was the perfect weekend to have Ryan on the pole and us on the front row and to sit here and get our first, first and second finish -- it's just an awesome day for Stewart-Haas Racing," Stewart said. "These [cars] have been good, we just needed one weekend where we didn't have something stupid go wrong and it happened for both of us [Sunday]."

"I think hindsight being 20/20, I don't mind running second and having [Newman] win the race versus us winning the race and him running out of fuel."

--TONY STEWART

Stewart actually moved into a tie for 10th in the standings with former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, though Stewart reverts to 11th on the tiebreaker. But he improved his margin from 12th-place Clint Bowyer to 28 points with seven races to go to the Chase cutoff after Richmond in September.

With only one driver between 10th and 20th in the points -- David Ragan -- having a win, Stewart is also currently in a Chase-qualified spot.

"This is definitely a stretch that we like coming up here, so this is a lot of momentum," Stewart said. "This is a perfect way to go into an off weekend, for sure. Especially going into Indy -- man, this is big for everybody at Stewart Haas Racing."

Even though Stewart's never fallen out of the top 12 in the standings this season, he's fallen plenty since he led the points after the third race. In the 18 races coming into New Hampshire he had only one top-five and six top-10 finishes.

The New Hampshire run, in which Stewart was coming to the front like gangbusters at the end, was especially gratifying to Stewart and his crew chief, Darian Grubb. In the previous race at New Hampshire, the 2010 Chase opener, Stewart dominated only to run out of fuel while leading coming to the white flag.

Grubb was coughing and sniffling with pneumonia as he did some media work, standing in the garage next to his car that was being disassembled in post-race inspection.

"This really means a lot," Grubb said. "I wish we were the ones that got the win, because we're the ones out of the points right now. But we'll take it because it was a good points day and a good day for the organization. We know we're doing the right things and we've got cars that are fast, so we'll keep working on that."

Early in the race, under a caution, Grubb offered Stewart some choices on a direction to go with tire and setup options. Stewart simply replied, "I trust whatever call you make."

"When you're feeling good, it's really easy to lose focus and lose concentration," Stewart said. "I'm really proud of what he did [Sunday]. That was a tough day and a tough weekend for him, feeling bad -- but an awesome job by everybody."

Grubb said last fall's disappointment was heavy on his mind as he worked strategy Sunday. Grubb said he played his cards to put Stewart in position to come hot and hard at race's end.

"We put ourselves back there and I was gonna play the conservative game after what happened to us last fall here, when we ran out with one to go," Grubb said. "I wasn't gonna let that happen to us again -- we needed a solid top-five, and we knew we could get that because we had a fast race car.

"We were hoping that Ryan would make it, but that he would have to be saving more than he did. We'll take that, because we really had to use the tires up getting around a lot of the lapped cars. It was still very fast and very fun -- and I like to run races like that, where we actually get to race."

And with the season's last off weekend up next, before maybe Stewart's biggest weekend of the season -- the Brickyard 400 at his home-state Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- the owner said he had mixed emotions.

"[The off weekend] doesn't really matter -- it's good and it's bad," Stewart said. "It's good because you want to go back to the track next weekend and keep going, but at the same time we get to ride this wave for two weeks going into a really big race for us. It doesn't really matter either way.

"The good thing for Ryan's team is it gives them a little bit of extra time to get ready for the Chase, now. Hopefully that will lock him in, make sure that we can keep those guys there. Hopefully it will give them time to get prepared.

"It's a good weekend for us, gaining a little bit points wise. We'll keep digging on our side."

"I just think it's huge," Grubb said, echoing his owner while the smile never left his face, despite his physical condition. "We were 1-2 all weekend with fast race cars, and that makes our job a lot easier.

"The strategy worked out for both of us, playing two different strategies, so it was a really good team effort, and we're really enjoying it."