By admin | June 5, 2012
By Richard Allen
If one were to look over the victory totals for this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, it might look as if Tony Stewart had simply picked up where he left off at the end of 2011. Last season, the driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet closed out the campaign by winning five of the final ten races and claiming his third series title.
But a closer look at Stewart’s statistics for 2012 do not necessarily reveal a championship contender. While he does have two victories, which ties him with Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski for most wins, he also has the lowest number of top-10 finishes(five) of any driver within the top-10 of the standings.
Stewart has finished outside the top-20 five times in thirteen starts this season, including consecutive 25th place results in Charlotte and Dover.
At the end of his championship campaign in 2011, Stewart released crew chief Darian Grubb and replaced him with veteran pit boss Steve Addington. While it may have seemed an unusual move to fire a crew chief who had just won a title, the decision had actually been made well before that final result was achieved.
In the beginning of the 2012 season it looked as if the switch from Grubb to Addington had been a seamless one as the SHR #14 team scored victories in two of the first five races(Las Vegas and Fontana). However, the inconsistency that would plague the team throughout the first half of this year was already apparent, although hidden by those initial wins.
While Stewart did have wins in races two and five of the season, his other finishes had been 16th, 22nd and 14th. The roller coaster ride had already begun but no one had really noticed yet.
Of course, all of this is really a pointless conversation when the current NASCAR Chase for the Championship system is taken into consideration. Just like this driver proved last year, a season of consistency is not necessary.
Simply making the playoff is all that is needed, and with his two wins, Stewart will likely make the Chase as either a top-10 driver or a wildcard. And like last season, if he gets hot at the right time he could win another title no matter how up and down he might be in the first 26 races.
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