Stewart-Haas Racing press release
Tony Stewart came into the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup 0-26. But two races into the 10-race Chase, Stewart is undefeated.
The driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) kept up his opportune winning streak by taking the checkered flag in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The victory came just six days after Stewart scored his first victory of the season in the rain-postponed Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. – the opening round of the Chase.
Stewart led only the final two laps around the 1.058-mile New Hampshire oval after previous leader Clint Bowyer ran out of gas just before taking the white flag of the 300-lap race. It was the fewest laps-led total for Stewart in a race in which he won. His previous lowest laps-led total was five laps in October 2006 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
This is a sport where guys have a high level of respect for what happens and how it happens.
“We may not have been the best car at the end,” said Stewart, who started 20th in the 43-car field. “Clint (Bowyer) was just a tick better than us. I definitely did not know he was in a situation to worry about fuel. So the good thing is Darian (Grubb, crew chief for Stewart) told us we were two, three laps to the good. I got to run hard all the way to the end.”
It was Stewart’s 41st career Sprint Cup victory and his third at New Hampshire. And with his win at Chicagoland, it marked the eighth time in Stewart’s career where he’s notched back-to-back victories, with the previous occurrence coming in July 2007 when he won back-to-back races at Chicagoland and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 12 of his 13 seasons in Sprint Cup, Stewart has won at least two races.
In addition to the milestones, Stewart’s New Hampshire win was ironic. It was at this race one year ago when Stewart was the leader, but ran out of gas on the last turn of the last lap. The victor was Bowyer.
“Man, what a way to win it. Such an irony from last year where we ran out of gas coming to the finish,” Stewart said. “You hate to see anybody lose it that way, but you’ll take a win any way you can get it right now.
“It’s amazing that it happened like that. Clint was one of the first guys that called last year and, as happy as he was that he won the race, he knew how disappointing it was for us. When he called he said, ‘I’m sorry about what happened.’ You don’t want to win them that way and you don’t want to see guys lose them that way. This is a sport where guys have a high level of respect for what happens and how it happens. To have a win get away from you that way –it’s disappointing for anybody.
“We definitely know what it was like last year and can sympathize with him. It shows the character he has. He was one of the first guys on pit road to get to me and congratulate me. He was laughing about it. He’s thinking about the same thing – how ironic it was that last year the roles were reversed. You love winning, but you hate to see somebody lose a race that way.”
The win placed Stewart in a spot he hasn’t occupied since early March when he finished second in the third race of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – atop the point standings.
Stewart came into New Hampshire second in the Chase standings, seven points behind leader Kevin Harvick. Stewart’s victory, combined with Harvick’s 12th-place finish in the Sylvania 300, created a 14-point swing, with Stewart now the Chase leader by seven points over second-place Harvick.
“As much as we want to sit here and beat our chest and be proud of what we’ve done – and we are proud of what we’ve done these first two weeks – we got eight hard weeks to go here,” Stewart said. “The celebrating isn’t going to last long. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m proud of our group. I’m confident that we’ve got a group of guys who are very, very focused right now. The cars don’t know anything about momentum, but the people do. This is the perfect scenario to go into these last eight weeks, for sure.”
Stewart is the second driver in the eight-year history of the Chase for the Sprint Cup to win the first two races of the 10-race Chase. Greg Biffle was the first, winning at New Hampshire and Dover (Del.) International Speedway in 2008.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 25th in the Sylvania 300 after starting from the pole. He cut a tire with less than five laps remaining while in 12th place and had to make an unscheduled pit stop.
Newman won the series’ July stop at New Hampshire, giving SHR a sweep of the New Hampshire race weekends in 2011, as Newman also won the pole for the July race.
Newman entered New Hampshire seventh in points, 14 points out of first. He’s now 11th in the standings, 34 points arrears Stewart.
Brad Keselowski finished 7.225 seconds behind Stewart in the runner-up spot, while Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya and Regan Smith comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were three caution periods for 14 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish.