Stewart Stays in Championship Race

Tony Stewart

“The last four weeks are tracks that I like and that I've had success at, but you know, every time you go to a track, it's a little bit different than the time before." (Photo: Getty Images)

Tony Stewart heads to Martinsville Speedway squarely in the Chase for the Sprint Cup title picture following his top-10 run last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Talladega run kept Stewart close to the top of the standings and he trails leader Carl Edwards by 19 points heading to Sunday’s return engagement at Martinsville.

But as he’s stressed since making the playoffs last month, Stewart is not changing his approach to running each week because of his championship shot.

“Honestly, I mean, I sound like a broken record,” Stewart said in a national media teleconference. “I know when -- I know it frustrates you guys, but literally we are taking it one day at a time.

“The last four weeks are tracks that I like and that I've had success at, but you know, every time you go to a track, it's a little bit different than the time before. You know, your setups change, your packages change and you hope that you're staying ahead of it. So it's hard to tell whether we are going to be able to be where we need to be, but we are going to do everything we can to be as good as we can be in all four of those races.”

Stewart has his sights set on a third Sprint Cup Series championship if he’s able to get to the top of the standings over the course of the final four races of the season. He’s the only driver in this year’s title race that has won the crown under the old season-long points format and the Chase.

While proud of both accomplishments, Stewart believes today’s system is a much more difficult challenge.

“Absolutely. I don't think there's anybody that's mathematically out of it with four races to go here right now,” he said. “So with the old format of the season-long-standings with four races to go, you only had a handful of guys that still mathematically had a shot to win the championship. And you were really racing two to three guys at the most at this point, where there's nobody that's really eliminated from the opportunities to win this championship with four races to go, all 12 guys are still in it.

“So it's definitely a lot more stressful trying to do it in a 10-race format versus a 36-week format.”

Stewart will look to follow up his top ten at Talladega with a solid outing at Martinsville in Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500. He plans on making a change from his approach to last April’s race at the track by utilizing a set-up from teammate Ryan Newman’s car.

“We are going to Martinsville this weekend with Ryan's package that he's been running really well with and we have kind of struggled there so we are going to start with Ryan's setup and work our way from there,” Stewart said. “We know it's going to be a little different for me and our driving style. Mine and Ryan's are a little bit different. But I feel that's a good place to start for the weekend.”

And Stewart hopes things finish as well as they’ll start on Sunday with a trip to Victory Lane.

Despite moving from last week’s race at the biggest track on the schedule to the much smaller confines of the half-mile Martinsville Speedway, Stewart doesn’t anticipate much of an adjustment period and feels confident about his chances this weekend.

“It's just a switch,” Stewart said. “A week in between, you start practice on Friday and you remember where you're at and what you did at Talladega really doesn't -- you don't think about the driving style differences. When you pull in there you realize that you are at a lot different place and you is settle in really quickly and the mode of back to what you have to do to be fast at Martinsville.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Tony Stewart

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