Summer Stumble For Stewart

A year ago, Tony Stewart was as hot as the summer weather.

But this year has been a big cold shower for the two-time champion.

After storming through the summer portion of the schedule last season, Stewart has suffered through a disappointing stretch this season which has dropped him out of the Top 10 in the NEXTEL Cup point standings.

His latest setback came Sunday in the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

After starting fifth, Stewart was leading the race in the early going. But as polesitter Ryan Newman battled to get back on the lead lap, the two made contact on lap 91 and Stewart was sent spinning into the outside wall with significant damage to the Home Depot Chevrolet.

"The No. 12 just took us out," Stewart said. "We're starting to learn to race him like he races us and he doesn't give anybody a break, so I wasn't going to give him a break.

"It's amazing how he expects you to let him by, but he don't give anybody the same courtesy."

Newman, who got taken out on th eensuing restart after getting hit by Michael Waltrip, had another view.

"We were on fresh tires," he said. "I don't know if Tony knew that or not but, regardless, he didn't live up to what he preaches and that's move over and let a faster car go, especially a car on fresh tries trying to get a lap back. I was way faster than Tony was."

Despite winning the Pepsi 400 at Daytona two weeks ago, Stewart's last two months have been anything but championship caliber.

A 42nd at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600 Memorial Day weekend began the slide which has included finishes of 25th at Dover, 41st at Michigan, 28th in Sonoma and 32nd at Chicagoland.

Contrast that to a year ago when Stewart found himself in victory lane at Sonona, Daytona and New Hampshire with wins at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen coming in August.

The difference has Stewart on the outside looking in to make the "Chase" - for now.

"There is nothing we can do about it," he said. "We have a great group of guys here who will do everything they can to get us back out there to do what we can.

"It is frustrating when you got a guy who isn't in the top-10 and won't make the Chase ruining it for everybody else."

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