By admin | May 11, 2010
By Richard Allen
What do the numbers 26, 23, 32, 16, 23 and 23 have in common? No, these are not winning lottery numbers, at least not that I know of. These numbers represent the last six Sprint Cup finishing positions by Tony Stewart.
Stewart has long been known for his slow starts while in NASCAR, but never in his career has he had a bad run such as this. Since Martinsville, he has not placed inside the top-15. In that time span he has dropped to 18th in the Sprint Cup standings. After the race in Bristol he had moved as high as 5th in the overall standings.
Last year, in Stewartâ€™s first season with his own Stewart-Haas Racing team he got off to a much better start. Just after the first race in Dover the two time Sprint Cup champion took the points lead at the earliest stage of the season in his entire NASCAR career. For a traditional slow starter it was an indication that he was to be a serious contender for another title.
As Stewart made his run, there were claims that he should be doing so well. Many detractors claimed that one of the best drivers driving the best equipment ought to be at the top of the standings. That, of course, was a reference to the fact that SHR is in point of fact a satellite team of Hendrick Motorsports.
Stewart went on to lead the standings at the time of the Chase for the Championship cutoff. However, in the end, he was out pointed by Jimmie Johnson. Four wins and a sixth place result in the final standings were the ultimate payoff for Stewart in his first season away from long time car owner Joe Gibbs.
Coming into this season there was little reason to doubt that the driver of car #14 would not continue his winning ways. After all, he would still be one of the sportâ€™s best drivers driving some of the sportâ€™s best equipment.
Instead, he has scored only three top-10 finishes out of eleven races. Perhaps it is bad luck, poor preparation, improved performance of others or some combination of these that have caused Stewart to falter in his last six races. This bad streak could not have come at a worse time for Stewart as one of his sponsors, Old Spice, has informed him they will not be back next year.
Whatever the cause, Tony Stewart has not gotten off to the start he would have liked in 2010. He will have to muster one of his finest mid-season charges to recover from his current slide. Of course, that is the beauty, or the weakness if you prefer, of the Chase format. Recoveries can be made.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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