Aug 9, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT
In a way, Tony Stewart‘s hope to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup is like a wristwatch: the minutes and races are ticking away.
Stewart, who qualified a decent 13th Saturday for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International, may have his best – and potentially last good – shot at making the Chase this weekend.
Sure, Stewart can still earn at the four other tracks that follow WGI en route to the Chase: Michigan and Bristol, where he has one career win at each, and then Atlanta and Richmond, where he has three wins each.
But no other place between now and the start of the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway offers Stewart such strong odds as this weekend’s event.
Stewart has been an outstanding road course racer in his Sprint Cup career, winning seven times since 1999: five at this weekend’s venue, and two others at Sonoma
But Stewart is also well aware that his last win at WGI came back in 2009. Doing well on Sunday is incentive enough, but he also has the added pressure of making it almost mandatory that he must earn a win to make the Chase.
Stewart is known for his coolness under pressure, but things are a bit different this year. He’s at risk of missing the Chase for the third time in its 10-year existence, and for the second year in a row (the third time was 2006, one season after earning his second of three eventual Cup championships).
Missing last year’s Chase was out of Stewart’s control: he missed the final 15 races – including the entire 10-race playoff – due to suffering a broken leg in a sprint car crash early last August.
But now that he’s back, Stewart is trying to stay cool to make the Chase, but he’s starting to show an uncharacteristic bit of insecurity.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” Stewart said in a team media release for Sunday’s race. “You would love to have two or three wins under your belt and not have to be worrying about it, but it’s part of it. But if it were easy, then it wouldn’t mean anything.
“Where we are still doesn’t change anything as far as our approach goes. We’ve got to do the same things, do it the same way. You can’t over-drive the car. You can’t try harder than what you’re already trying. You just have to believe in yourself, believe in your team and not let up.”
At this point with five races left, the best way for Stewart to make the Chase is with a win. But he also has a chance – albeit small – to still make it on points. He’s currently 19th in the Sprint Cup standings.
“To me, it doesn’t matter how you get in, it’s just getting in,” Stewart said. “The important thing is a) getting there and then b) making the cut, and then each cut after that (the three cut-offs in the Chase after the third, sixth and ninth races). We all knew at the start of the season what it was going to take to get in, it’s just a matter of getting there.”
Even though much of the talk this weekend has been about the likely chances of a win by Marcos Ambrose or Stewart’s teammate, Kevin Harvick, Stewart may be at the best place for him and his Chase hopes.
“(This is) a race that we always look forward to,” Stewart said. “We’ve had a lot of success there and it’s just fun. It’s like taking Sonoma and just multiplying the speed times three. It’s just a lot faster track. It still has the same elevation changes, but you’re just running a lot quicker. Both Sonoma and Watkins Glen are two places on the schedule that we really enjoy coming to.
“When you’ve won five races, it gives you that confidence that you know how to win, and know what you have to do to get to victory lane. I know what feel I need when we get here. It’s just a matter of going out and … putting yourself in that position.”
For Stewart, that position is rather simple and cut-and-dried: First. Everything else is not enough.
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Jul 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT
Today, Iowa. Next year, Indianapolis? That’s what Matthew Brabham is hoping for, after completing his first full IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport Thursday at Iowa Speedway.
Jul 2, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT
At the same time that James Hinchcliffe was seriously injured while practicing for the Indianapolis 500, Ryan Briscoe didn’t have a ride for either the 500 or for the season.
Jul 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
The same ten teams from season one, albeit with a few name changes.
F1 Strategy Group pushing through technical revolution for 2017, other changes planned as early as Belgian GP
Jul 2, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT
F1 Strategy Group met with the FIA and Formula One Management in England on Wednesday to discuss future changes to the sport.
Jul 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
Red, white and blue in time for the British Grand Prix weekend.
Jul 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
The MST team makes its predictions ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Jul 2, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT
What if The Rolling Stones’ concert set list at IMS was specifically inspired by recent IndyCar events? We ponder the possibilities.
Jul 2, 2015, 10:44 AM EDT
A Power outage, JPM and Marco’s quiet rolls, and other IndyCar nuggets of note leaving Fontana.
Jul 2, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Four driver changes ahead of this weekend’s round at Silverstone.
Jul 2, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Can Lewis Hamilton make it a homecoming to remember by scoring his third British Grand Prix victory at Silverstone?
Jul 1, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Mark Miles discussed Fontana, Milwaukee, Road America and more.
Jul 1, 2015, 5:53 PM EDT
The CEO of IndyCar discussed the challenges of putting together an extended series schedule.
Jul 1, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
TV times across the board for this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Jul 1, 2015, 4:59 PM EDT
Could penalties be coming to drivers who speak out about IndyCar’s on-track product? Mark Miles flips some pancakes on the possibility.
Jul 1, 2015, 4:03 PM EDT
Will Power fined, put on probation after shoving safety official during Saturday’s race.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT
In a surprise move, the NHRA announced Wednesday that president Tom Compton has retired after 15 years as the sanctioning body’s chief executive officer
Jul 1, 2015, 1:54 PM EDT
The provisional winner of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is Rhys Millen.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
The CFH Racing co-owner says IndyCar will never grow if “we’re tearing it apart from the inside out.”
- Ryan Briscoe making most of filling in for James Hinchcliffe 0
- F1 Strategy Group pushing through technical revolution for 2017, other changes planned as early as Belgian GP 1
- 2015 British Grand Prix Preview 1
- Here are your British Grand Prix air times on CNBC, NBCSN, Live Extra 0
- Miles: After “two-sided pancake” Fontana race, IndyCar may crack down against stakeholder comments 11
- IndyCar issues penalties and fines following MAVTV 500 at Fontana 5
- NHRA shakeup: Tom Compton retires as president, Peter Clifford named successor 6