By admin | October 30, 2012
By Richard Allen
Throughout his time as a Sprint Cup driver, Tony Stewart has been a slow starter and a strong finisher. Last year served a perfect example of that when he struggled just to qualify for the Chase for the Championship then reeled off five wins over the final ten races to claim his third NASCAR title.
In 2012, however, Stewart has seemingly run his season in the reverse order of previous years in his career. The owner/driver came out of the starting blocks as well or better than he ever has. The #14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet pulled into victory lane twice within the first five events when he captured wins in Las Vegas and California. Since then, the defending champion’s season has been filled with inconsistency.
Stewart did add one more win on the weekend of July 4th in Daytona but has also piled up an unusually high number of finishes outside the top-20. As a matter of fact, his team has posted eleven results of 21st or worse in the 33 races held so far.
The inconsistency that has plagued this driver and team has been especially noticeable throughout the seven Chase races held so far. Stewart has three top-10s in those events and three finishes of 20th or worse along with one 13th place result.
Currently, Stewart sits 10th in the Sprint Cup standings. He is 71 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
Weeks prior to his claiming of the 2012 championship, Stewart had made the decision to relieve then crew chief Darian Grubb of his duties at the end of the campaign. This move proved somewhat awkward after the title had been won but the plan went into effect anyway and the pit boss left his team after the season’s final race.
Ultimately, veteran crew chief Steve Addington was brought in to take the reins of the #14 team while Grubb moved over to Joe Gibbs Racing to lead the way for driver Denny Hamlin. Those moves appeared to work well for both parties as each driver got off to a quick start. However, Hamlin’s #11 was able to maintain its early pace for the most part as he won five races and remained in championship contention until this past weekend. Stewart, on the other hand, fell off his early pace and was unable to recover in the playoff.
It seems as if Tony Stewart has run in reverse in 2012. Instead of his usual slow start and strong finish, he has done just the opposite. And that has proven to be less than helpful in his quest for fourth championship.
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