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From the Notebook: Stewart 'steals' Hendrick win; gives due credit

November 03, 2011, Dave Rodman,

From the Notebook: Hendrick recovering from broken ribs; Chase leader surprise

Some garage insiders, in the past few weeks, have quipped that Hendrick Motorsports already has achieved the lofty plateau of 200 career victories, thanks to ally Tony Stewart's three wins in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Truthfully, Stewart only gets his Stewart-Haas Racing team's engines and chassis from owner Rick Hendrick, along with some technical support; but he's used it to good effect with three races remaining in the Chase. Stewart's second, eight points behind Chase leader Carl Edwards, and well ahead of Hendrick's three Chase contenders.

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But Stewart gives all credit where it's due.

"I don't think that there's anything that they are holding back from us that we could ask for, to be honest," Stewart said. "We work very closely with them every week with the setups. Our engines -- I have the ability, and Ryan [Newman, SHR teammate] does, too -- if we feel like we aren't getting a good enough engine, we can sit there and look at all six dyno sheets for our engines and handpick the one we want if we so desire.

"I have confidence that our relationship with Rick and his whole group is very solid and that we are getting everything that we need from them. It's just our job to execute it and finish it out on the weekend."

Stewart, one of only four drivers to have won multiple championships since 1985, along with Dale Earnhardt, Johnson and Jeff Gordon, is the only one to have won via the full season and Chase modes, so he can easily compare the two.

"I don't think there's anybody that's mathematically out of it," Stewart said. "With the old format of the season-long standings, with four races to go you only had a handful of guys that still mathematically had a shot to win the championship. And you were really racing two to three guys at the most at this point.

"So it's definitely a lot more stressful trying to do it in a 10-race format versus a 36-week format."

Realistically, though, Stewart's in the same boat coming to Texas. With third-place Kevin Harvick 13 points behind him, they're the only three men with a reasonable shot at the title, barring Edwards, Stewart or Harvick having a complete collapse while Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth or Johnson win more than one race.

Hendrick thankful, laying low

When Hendrick achieved his 199th Cup Series victory last month via Johnson's win at Kansas Speedway, he vowed not to miss another race this season -- and potentially his landmark 200th career win -- after he'd missed other significant victories in his organization's 28-year history.

But Hendrick has a decision to make this week after the injuries he suffered in the crash landing of one of his private jet airplanes this past Monday evening turned out to be more serious than originally diagnosed. When Hendrick returned home to Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, his personal physician discovered Hendrick had four broken ribs, not one, in addition to a fractured clavicle and bruising.

A Hendrick Motorsports statement said that, due to discomfort from the injuries, Hendrick was admitted Tuesday afternoon to a medical facility in the Charlotte area, where doctors believe the pain can most effectively be managed. Hendrick is in good spirits and is expected to be released by the end of the week.

"[Hendrick's wife] Linda and I have been overwhelmed by all the words of encouragement and genuine concern we've received," Hendrick said in the statement. "We are blessed to have such a wonderful support system, and our family is extremely grateful for the thoughts and prayers. We extend our sincere thanks to everyone.

"I'm so proud of how our pilots handled the situation, and we're extremely appreciative of the folks in Key West [Fla.] who went above and beyond to help us. It's good to be back in Charlotte as we regroup and focus on our family."

Johnson respects Edwards' effort

Johnson, who's sixth in the standings with three races remaining in the eighth annual Chase and is a long shot to win his sixth consecutive title, said this week that if Edwards holds his lead and wins his first Sprint Cup championship, he would respect him no less even if Edwards has the single victory he scored 31 races ago, at Las Vegas.

"I would be surprised if the champion didn't win a race [in the Chase]," Johnson said. "From what we've seen since the inception of the Chase, it sure seems like you have to win multiple races to be the champion. But the way that the points are set up, clearly you don't have to win -- it's not a rule by any means that you have to win in order [be champion].

"I actually hadn't thought much about Carl not winning a [Chase] race. I just kind of assumed that he had and he's been so competitive and up front and scoring points that I guess I just forgot about that point. I guess it can happen and it would be a shock, I think if the champion hadn't won a race.

"It just boils down to the points structure and how it works out. As a racer, I don't have a problem if a driver doesn't win a race in the Chase and is the champion. We know what the rules are, we know how the points work and you're not running around in 15th, just riding and going to win the championship."

Biffle, Ragan on equal footing at Roush Fenway

Jack Roush is adamant that his two drivers who aren't Chase contenders this season, Greg Biffle and David Ragan, are racing for wins just as ardently as RFR's two title contenders, Edwards and Kenseth. Roush was asked if his two lesser-ranked teams were expected to play a subservient role in helping their teammates win a title.

"There is no line for them to toe," Roush said. "They have a green light to win whatever race they can and the orders are no different. The expectation on my part is no different than it has ever been. I expect them not to wreck one another or to wreck Matt or Carl.

"The other thing is that what is left of the year is a building opportunity for Greg and David. We are still trying to find sponsorship. We are actually closest on Carl and Greg on sponsorship requirements than we are for Matt and David. We need to make our best efforts to put the best face on the selling efforts that are ongoing for sponsorship for 2012."

Roush has at least said he'll run a car for Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, regardless of whether or not it was sponsored. Ragan, who won his first Cup points race in the summer at Daytona, has no such guarantee.

"We are making as much hay from [Edwards and Kenseth being title contenders] as we can in the negotiations and discussions that we have ongoing," Roush said. "Whether we are successful in leveraging that back to get all the support we need is yet to be determined. A championship would speak volumes for that."

Bodine guaranteed starter thanks to switch

Geoffrey Bodine, who won Hendrick's first Daytona 500 in 1986, will be a guaranteed starter in the season's final three Cup races for Tommy Baldwin Racing, thanks to a team swap with TBR teammate Dave Blaney.

Blaney, who earlier this season raced Baldwin's No. 36 Chevrolet into the top 35 in the owners' standings for the first time TBR's three-year history, will move into Baldwin's No. 35 Chevy and work with crew chief Joe Cipriano. While Blaney will have to get into the three lineups on his qualifying speed, Bodine, who brought Baldwin sponsorship from Luke & Associates, will work with Philippe Lopez as a guaranteed starter.

Bodine, who said he's only run "about 50 laps" in NASCAR's new car outside of the events at Daytona, said Luke is considering an expanded program of races in 2012.

Russ Wallace visitations set

Legendary Midwest short-track racer Russ Wallace, who passed away on Oct. 30 and was the father of NASCAR national series racers Rusty, Mike and Kenny Wallace and grandfather to Rusty's son Steve, will be remembered at events in North Carolina and Missouri next week.

The family will receive members of the racing community and other invited friends at Grace Covenant Church in Cornelius, N.C., on Monday from 4-8 p.m. ET. The family also will receive friends on Tuesday from 12-3 p.m. local time at Schrader's Funeral Home in Ballwin, Mo.

The family's requested that, in lieu of flowers, memorials to Russ Wallace may be made online to the USO at: or to Victory Junction Gang Camp, 4500 Adam's Way, Randleman, NC 27317.

How the last lap should be ... almost

It rarely happens this way, but last weekend at Martinsville, according to NASCAR.COM's Live Leaderboard scoring system, the top-three finishers ran the three fastest last laps of the cars that were running at the finish.

What's more typical is that race winner Stewart didn't run the fastest lap -- he was only second (20.14 seconds) to second-place Johnson's best (20.10). Third-place Gordon clocked a 20.16 lap 500.

Former crew chief Miller reappears at MWR

Former Richard Childress Racing crew chief and competition executive Scott Miller, who's hardly been seen at a Cup race since it was announced he would leave RCR to take an executive vice president of competition position at Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of this season, will be back at the track this weekend at Texas.

Miller, who won Cup races with RCR drivers Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, will serve as Martin Truex Jr.'s crew chief this weekend at Texas after Truex's chief mechanic, Chad Johnston, was suspended for the rest of the season after a technical violation at Talladega.

Patrick schedule announcement on tap

Danica Patrick's full-time move to NASCAR will take its next big step Friday when Patrick's partial 2012 Sprint Cup Series schedule is announced Friday afternoon at the unveiling of her Cup Series car at Texas.