Stewart Puts Daytona Behind

Tony Stewart

"I just like the easier day on Saturday to get ready for Sunday." (Photo: Getty Images)

The closing laps of last week’s Daytona 500 didn’t turn out as Tony Stewart had hoped but the veteran has put all of his focus on this week’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Stewart was in the lead pack of cars in the closing laps of last week’s 500 and appeared to be in perfect position to make a run at the checkered flag.

But he wasn’t able to hook up with Mark Martin and draft his way to the front ending an ultimately disappointing day for the owner-driver.

“We just never got the bumpers locked together,” Stewart said. “We kept bouncing off each other. Then when a couple guys got a run through the center there, it kind of pulled him off of us even more and got us separated so bad that we never were able to get hooked back up together.”

After his narrow win by .007-seconds in Saturday’s Nationwide Series opener Stewart was looking for a rare Daytona weekend sweep. While he ran well all day and had his No. 14 Chevrolet in the mix to win “The Great American Race” circumstances more than anything kept Stewart out of victory lane.

“You think? It’s over and we’re on to Phoenix now,” Stewart said when asked if he was disappointed with last week’s run. “We wish the outcome could have been different obviously, but the only thing we can do now is worry about what we’re doing this weekend. If you were paying attention to what we did last week then we’re not doing a good job this week right now.”

The Phoenix weekend is much different than the preparation that went into Daytona with teams spending nearly ten days in Florida getting ready for the 500. NASCAR’s new qualifying procedure which sets the time trial line-up by practice speeds turned Phoenix into a new adventure for drivers and Stewart said the compressed schedule has forced teams to approach the event as if it were a two-day race weekend.

“You just focus on these two sessions and then tomorrow just qualifying,” Stewart said between Friday’s practices. “I like this format. I like doing what we’re doing this weekend. I like running the practice on Friday and having qualifying tomorrow and the race Sunday. This is a format I like. I just like running all of our practice Friday. No particular reason other than I just like the easier day on Saturday to get ready for Sunday.”

Stewart has driven nearly every kind of race vehicle imaginable at PIR including stock cars, sprint cars, Silver Crown cars and Indy Cars. But the track will be reconfigured after this weekend’s NASCAR event which will include progressive banking and a new track surface.

However don’t include Stewart among those looking forward to the changes.

“I said it a long time ago when they took the Goodyear bridge away and they took the exit of turn two away and changed it that they screwed it up at that point,” he said. “Anything they do in the future is not really going to matter to me anymore. They already kind of messed it up.”

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