Skip to content

Tired of questions and doubt, Tony Stewart shows he’s back and just fine at Bristol

Mar 16, 2014, 11:36 PM EST

Photo courtesy GM Photos/Steve Fecht Photo courtesy GM Photos/Steve Fecht

The best way to get Tony Stewart inspired seems to be when he’s ticked off – and the proof of that was in his fourth-place finish in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

As the first three weeks of the 2014 season had played out, Stewart had grown weary of questions from media and fans about how he was physically and how far he’s recovered since last August’s sprint car mishap that left him with a severely fractured right leg, causing him to miss the final 15 races of the Sprint Cup season.

When he got to Bristol last Thursday, Stewart may not have wanted to be reminded – but of course, the media did so – about his overall career record at the half-mile bullring, the second-worst performing track in his personal Cup annals.

A poor qualifying performance Saturday, forcing Stewart to take a provisional to sit 37th on Sunday’s starting grid didn’t help, either.

Enough was enough for Stewart, it would appear, as on Sunday he drove like the Smoke of old and gave hope to diehard fans who were concerned about the slow and dismal start he had in the season’s first three races (35th at Daytona, 16th at Phoenix, 33rd at Las Vegas).

“It’s not a win, I know that, but it feels like a win,” Stewart said. “I think we will take that.  Come to Bristol and run 500 laps here and a top five, that is just what the doctor ordered.”

Admittedly, there still is a slight downside. For as well as he performed, because of the way he finished in the three races beforehand, Stewart only improved slightly in the Sprint Cup standings, from 27th to 23rd.

Even so, there is now hope where there was little before Bristol, where he earned his best finish since a runner-up showing in the 2010 spring race there, four years ago.

Smoke may not be totally back, but Sunday’s finish would seem to indicate that he’s at least on the right track.

“To start 37th and end up fourth today, I’m pretty excited about that,” Stewart said. “We had a long way to go from Friday, when we weren’t very good and every day we just got better and better. So, I’m really proud of this team.”

Of course, Stewart was once again asked how he felt physically after the race. Would you expect anything less from the media?

Without batting an eye, his response was vintage Stewart, bringing the house down with laughter: “I feel great! Let’s do it again!”

While Stewart will likely continue to be ticked off every now and then by the media, for at least a few days he shook off the pessimists and can look forward to next Sunday’s race at Fontana with optimism.

“It’s a step in the right direction for sure,” Stewart said. “This is a big one. If you come out of this place with a top-five you’ve had a good day.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR: Reddit users provide snapshot of fan reaction to this year’s Chase

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:07 PM EST

    O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Getty Images

    A post-season exit survey provides some very interesting fan data on NASCAR’s latest version of its post-season format.

  2. Steve Letarte: Greg Ives’ familiarity with Hendrick will help Dale Jr., 88 team prosper (VIDEO)

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

    Iowa Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    The outgoing crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. also talks about his successor needing to make his own mark.

  3. Delaware court commissioner delays Kurt Busch hearing to Dec. 16

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:45 PM EST

    Ford EcoBoost 400 Getty Images

    The Delaware family court hearing is a separate matter from the ongoing police investigation into allegations of assault against Busch by his ex-girlfriend.

  4. NASCAR: Mike Hillman Jr. named crew chief for Brian Scott’s XFINITY program

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:15 PM EST

    Chicagoland Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    Brian Scott gets a new crew chief for 2015’s XFINITY campaign.

  5. WATCH: NASCAR AMERICA Tuesday night at 5 p.m. ET

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:44 PM EST

    nascar america

    It may be Thanksgiving week but NASCAR AMERICA is still on tonight at 5 p.m. ET.

  6. Marcus Ericsson makes official Sauber debut in Abu Dhabi test

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Brazil - Previews Getty Images

    The ex-Caterham pilot runs 95 laps in the Sauber C33 at Yas Marina Circuit.

  7. GP2 champ Jolyon Palmer quick in first F1 test despite engine/technical woes

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Qualifying Getty Images

    Palmer logs only 37 laps for Force India in Abu Dhabi, but places fourth on the time sheets.

  8. Caterham banks a 100-lap day with Will Stevens Tuesday in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    StevensAD1 Getty Images

    Caterham not only stays for test, but banks 100-plus laps on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.

  9. Sainz makes strides, gains, in second Red Bull run

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    SainzAD1 Getty Images

    Carlos Sainz Jr. has a good day with Red Bull, as he stakes claim for Toro Rosso seat in 2015.

  10. After losing title duel, it’s back to business for Nico Rosberg

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    Nico Rosberg AP

    Rosberg pounds out 114 laps – the most of any driver – in Day 1 of testing in Abu Dhabi.

  11. As ever, there’s more talent in wings than available IndyCar seats

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    James Hinchcliffe AP

    IndyCar’s available pool of talent, as always, is larger than the number of remaining seats.

  12. Red Bull GRC champs Olsbergs MSE out for more hardware in World RX finale

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    FIAWRXChamp

    The Ford squad enters this week’s World RX finale down four points in their fight for the team championship.

  13. McLaren taking methodical approach in first real Honda running this week

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    VandoorneAD1 Getty Images

    McLaren-Honda gets out, with ideally more to come on Wednesday.

  14. Bottas leads as McLaren-Honda delayed on first day of Abu Dhabi test

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:36 AM EST

    BottasAD1 Getty Images

    One Mercedes team on top, one former Mercedes team gets install laps only.

  15. From 2013 to 2014, F1’s standings have featured a significant shakeup

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    ADstart AP

    Go inside the numbers of this year’s final F1 points standings.

  16. IndyCar: Davide Valsecchi confirms SPM December test

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:40 AM EST

    ValsecchiMoscow Getty Images

    Ex-Lotus reserve will have his first IndyCar test in December.

  17. Steve Letarte reflects on Hendrick Motorsports career in “exit interview” (VIDEO)

    Nov 24, 2014, 6:26 PM EST

    Pocono 400 Getty Images

    The future NASCAR on NBC analyst talks about how Rick Hendrick and his partnerships with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have impacted his life.

Video from NASCAR America

Kevin Harvick's well deserved Sprint Cup
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Kahne (2193)
  2. A. Almirola (1822)
  3. J. McMurray (1812)
  4. J. Gordon (1806)
  5. J. Johnson (1684)