On last night's edition of "Tony Stewart Live" on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio, Stewart talked about the changes to the Chase for the Nextel Cup format that were announced by NASCAR this week. Tony Stewart: "I can't say that I'm surprised with 12 [Chase...
On last night's edition of "Tony Stewart Live" on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio, Stewart talked about the changes to the Chase for the Nextel Cup format that were announced by NASCAR this week.
Tony Stewart: "I can't say that I'm surprised with 12 [Chase drivers] now. I have to admit I'm a little bit surprised about how they're going to start the Chase up. The five points for winning, I don't think that's a big deal. I know that's something I've heard a lot of the media wanting. As a driver I don't think it is that huge of a deal. If it makes everybody happy, big deal, that's great. It's kind of weird how they're doing the Chase as far as everybody starts out with 5000 points and instead of having the breakdown of five points down from each position going into the Chase, for every race win that you have leading into the Chase you get 10 bonus points. So I ran this in my head when I got a call from Mike Helton Sunday telling me what was going to happen so when they did the announcement yesterday I would know ahead of time what was coming. Which I appreciate, Mike. Thank you very much. I ran this in my mind and you could, by theory, be leading the points after 26 races and start the Chase in 12th place, which didn't make a lot of sense to me. If everybody else had a win and you didn't have a win going into the Chase you could go from leading the point standings to 12th in one day.
"I agree with some of their things behind it. I'm still very adamant about the fact that I believe the top 12 guys going into the Chase this year should have their own points structure to where a situation like what happened with myself and Kasey Kahne -- I spun and was crashing at Dover and here's Kasey and [he] has nowhere to go and I collect him in it. You can't stop that from happening. There's no way to eliminate that part of it unless you take 12 guys and run them in a race by themselves and 31 guys in a race by themselves. But you can make it a less devastating day for somebody that has a bad day. Instead of him getting 43rd-place points he would have gotten 12th-place points if they were to give those 12 guys their own point structure.
"The thing about NASCAR and the thing that I think is important for all fans to understand is that NASCAR has been in existence almost what, 58 years now this year? There are a lot of things that happen in the sport that as a driver or as a car owner or as a crew chief that we don't always understand but there's a reason that they do things. So even though I still think it's dumb to not have those guys have their own points structure for the top 12 guys, there's a reason that NASCAR hasn't done that and it may not be something that I understand but in the big picture it's something that obviously is in the best interests of our sport. They didn't get this successful by making bad decisions.
"We'll have to wait and see. I think it's going to make it interesting on some last laps of these races leading into the Chase and during the Chase if a guy in second place can get to the leader. If that's what they want, that's what they've got. So it ought to be exciting. I think it's going to make the last lap of these races definitely a lot more exciting and action-packed for sure."
Co-host, Matt Yocum: "Do you think this is going to be a positive thing in that guys will race differently or do you think the same guys will race the exact same way where you hear 'All I've got to do is make the Chase and then after that it's up for grabs with anybody?'"
Stewart: "I would say that except for the fact that now, not only do you get the extra points for winning, but now that's 10 extra points you get for starting the Chase so if you can get up and nudge a guy on the last lap and get the win? That extra five points you're going to get for that day isn't going to be why you're doing it. You're going to be doing it so you get those extra 10 points when the Chase starts. I don't think they needed added incentive to win races. These guys that are in this series want to win races like they did in the series that got them to this point. It's not like any of these guys are out there just riding around and coasting around there. If they're in second pace and got a shot at winning, they're going to take that chance. So now all we've done it upped the ante to where now guys are going to take chances they might not have taken and said, 'Hey, second is a good day, we just are a little bit short.' They're going to take chances to get those extra 10 points for when the Chase starts, in my opinion.
Yocum: "Do you think the 12 number came into play because of two years ago, Dale Jr. and Jeff [Gordon missing the Chase] and then last year you?"
Stewart: "I hate to think that that's what the case is in all honesty. And I'm afraid it probably is but I hate to think that. I'd hate to think that NASCAR sat there and said, ''OK, how do we get these marquis drivers [in].' Everybody kept saying, 'Since he won the championship last year he should have been added.' No I shouldn't have. I should not have been in that Chase last year. I didn't get enough points to earn my spot in the Chase and that was it. Everybody thought, 'Wow, he's really taking it good.' I applauded Kasey Kahne. When we needed to be at our best we had three bad weeks in a row. And Kasey need three good weeks and he stepped up to the plate and got it done. It wasn't that we weren't trying. We just couldn't get it together for those three races. Kasey on the other hand did and earned his way into the Chase. To me, that's what made making the Chase for him so special. No matter where he finished in it, just the fact in that three weeks he rose to the occasion, did what he had to do, his team battled adversity and made it into the show, that's what impressed me about it no matter where he ended up in the Chase. What's next? Three years down the road are we going to add three more spots and make it the 'Mean Fifteen' or something like that? The more you add to it the less prestigious it is to even get in it."
Later in the show, Stewart talked about his first experience driving the Car of Tomorrow:
Stewart: "I did get a chance to drive the Car of Tomorrow finally. Oh, what a basket of junk. I was not impressed with it. I ran it at Lakeland, Florida on a short track. I can't wait to get that sled on a big track and see how it drives.
"It drives like a station wagon, an old station wagon, like an old Oldsmobile station wagon, green with wood panel trim on the sides. Granted, I know we were on harder tires than what they would run there but, boy, it didn't feel good. You know, it's like anything else, though. I'm sure the more we'll run it the better we'll get the setups and all that."