Season Review: Tony Stewart
December 1, 2009 | 9:11 A.M. EST
Both his 2009 effort as a driver and owner proved successful for the veteran, as he became the first owner/driver to lead the point standings since Alan Kulwicki in 1992, and the first one to win a race since Ricky Rudd in 1998.
"I feel like for a first-year team I have to give us an A," Stewart said of his first year as an owner/driver. "If we could have won the championship, you would give yourself an A+, but for a first-year team an A or an A- is appropriate for what had to come together in such a short amount of time. The changes and trying to get people organized and equipment ready and just so many new people working together for the first time. I think we've done fairly well."
Stewart grabbed the points lead following the May race at Dover International Speedway after scoring his ninth top-10 finish in the first 13 races of the season. He scored his first points paying victory at the following race in Pocono. Earlier in May, Stewart won the All-Star race.
With the Dover race, Stewart began a run of 10 consecutive top-10 finishes through the summer that included two more victories at Daytona and Watkins Glen.
He never lost the points lead during the regular season despite four finishes of 11th or worse in the races leading up to the Chase.
But, when the Chase started and the points were reset, Stewart was bumped to second and never regained the points lead. He ended the season in sixth in the standings with one additional victory in the Chase at Kansas.
"I am like a proud father. It has been neat to see over the last 13 months how this has all come together and progressed through the season," Stewart said. "From that standpoint, I don't think I could be any happier. Obviously, we wanted to win the championship this year and after leading the point standings, we felt like we had a good shot. We just couldn't get that run these last 10 weeks that we wanted. We will do what we can next year to try and pick up on that and improve on it."
In addition to his successful year, Stewart saw his teammate/employee, Ryan Newman, make the Chase with five top-five and 15 top-10 finishes on the season.
"Just by getting two cars in the Chase and winning the races we've won this year exceeded more than many could've anticipated, and what we could've anticipated. We knew on paper that it was possible, but the reality of it was going there and competing against great race teams every week," Stewart said.