Tony Stewart: No reason to change “humble” approach to the Chase

Tony Stewart meets with the media Thursday in Chicago. (Getty Images)
Tony Stewart meets with the media Thursday in Chicago. (Getty Images)
Tony Stewart meets with the media Thursday in Chicago. (Getty Images)

CHICAGO, Ill. – All it took was a sly smile and an exaggerated wink to understand what Tony Stewart was really saying.

“I’m wasting a spot here,” Stewart quipped, echoing the sentiment he expressed before the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

After downplaying his chances five years ago, however, Stewart proceeded to win the first two Chase races and ultimately beat Carl Edwards in a tiebreaker for his third Cup title.

On Thursday afternoon in the Ready.Set.Chase Launch Event at the Bridgeport Art Center’s Skyline Loft, Stewart wasn’t about to change his approach.

“I’m going back to 2011 notes, and that’s where I’m standing, man,” Stewart said. “I’m very superstitious.”

But there are distinct differences between then and now. In 2011, Stewart hadn’t won a race when the Chase started. This year, he qualified for the 10-race playoff with a strategic victory at Sonoma, and with the speed he’s shown this year, handicappers probably have a higher opinion of his chances than they did five years ago.

Then again, Stewart has never competed in the current Chase format, with three-race elimination rounds and a championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I’m ready to go this weekend, and I’ll take it a race at a time,” Stewart said. “I mean, this Chase is going to be pretty intense in itself. You’ve got 16 great drivers in here. You got three-week segments where you keep knocking four guys off.

“So it’s going to be pretty crazy these last 10 weeks.”

In a six-race stretch following his Sonoma win, Stewart finished second once and fifth three times, but he enters the Chase short on momentum—with consecutive results of 30th, 21st, 35th and 33rd.

But as Stewart proved dramatically with five Chase wins in 2011, the previous 26 races don’t matter much when the championship is on the line.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.