By admin | August 28, 2011
By Richard Allen
If I were a car owner in NASCAR and had to win one race, the driver I would most want would be Tony Stewart. However, the two time Sprint Cup champion’s performance of late has not really been worthy of such faith in his abilities.
Stewart remains in contention for another Sprint Cup title due to the fact that he sits 10th in the standings. However, he is only 21 points ahead of the red hot Brad Keselowski and fading fast. And worse for his Chase for the Championship chances, he has not won a race in 2011 which could give him a chance for a wildcard spot should he not remain in the top-10 of the standings.
This past weekend in Bristol, Stewart’s season seemed to hit a low point. Of all cars, he was the slowest qualifier on Friday which caused him to start the race from the 42nd position. And worse for Stewart, it would seem as though his troubles were not necessarily team related. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Ryan Newman, was the fastest in time-trials and started from the pole on Saturday.
Stewart was among the first cars to be lapped during the Irwin Tools Night Race and seemed to have difficulty just staying out of the way of the front runners on his way to a 28th place result, three laps down. Newman finished in the 8th spot.
All that said, one has to wonder if Stewart has finally taken on too many roles and if those outside responsibilities are hampering his driving.
While serving as a team owner, Stewart won four races in 2009 and followed that with two victories in 2010. In each of those seasons he qualified for the Chase playoff and competed for a championship.
So what has changed this season?
Consider all that is currently on Stewart’s plate. He is the owner of a Sprint Cup team who back in June replaced Bobby Hutchens as the team manager. Hutchens was credited with much of the early success experienced in 2009 by SHR when the team won four races and placed both drivers in the Chase for the Championship. Even though a new team manager is in place, Stewart undoubtedly had to play a greater part in that role during the transition.
Also, as has been the case for years, Stewart is the owner of one of the nation’s premier dirt tracks. The Eldora Speedway hosts some of the biggest dirt late model and sprint car races each year. While there are people in place to run that facility as well as the other tracks Stewart owns in Paducah, Kentucky and Macon, Illinois, those endeavors still require at least some of his time and attention.
But still, Stewart has been a track owner and a team owner for some time. So, has there been something else that has been added to Stewart’s to do list that has weighed him down more than usual?
Just this past week we officially found out that there indeed has been something added. In 2012, Danica Patrick will drive for SHR on a part time basis in the Sprint Cup Series. And more, the team is seeking a driver to fill the remaining races in which Patrick will not compete. The negotiations for each of these have likely been ongoing for quite some time. And there is no way such a process doesn’t serve as a distraction and a drain on all involved.
For whatever reason, Tony Stewart’s performance has dropped off in 2011. Particularly, that drop off has been most pronounced in the most recent weeks, just when the negotiations for Patrick’s contract would have been in the closing and most time consuming stages.
“I don’t know what the change is or what we’ve got to do to get it right,” Stewart said this past weekend in Bristol. “But we’re not going to stop until we figure it out. We will keep working until we get it sorted out and figured out. We won’t quit on it.”
Could it be that the change is this driver/owner/promoter has given himself too much to do?
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