Stewart Staying Busy

Tony Stewart

"It's exciting to be back." (Photo: Getty Images)

There’s no rest for defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart this off-season, who took part in both Daytona Preseason Thunder and the Chili Bowl last weekend.

As Stewart prepares for to challenge for a fourth career Cup title this year, he’s also overseeing the expansion of his NASCAR team, which will grow to add Danica Patrick’s 10-race schedule to the already two car tandem of Stewart and Ryan Newman.

That expansion is just one of the reasons Stewart felt last week’s time in Daytona was so important to the preparation for the coming season.

“Our sport is unique obviously having our biggest race the first race of the year,” Stewart said of the fast-approaching Daytona 500. “But it's very fitting at the same time because this race, we have more time during the off season to prepare for this race than we do the others. You bring cars here that you have the extra time to just make them that little bit nicer than you normally have time to do.

“It's exciting to be back, and looking forward to it. It's been fun to get back in the car today and get running around. Normally I'm hiding from the racetrack in testing, but it was fun to come back this morning and get back in the car and get rolling around again.”

Patrick, who will run the entire Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports in addition to her ten-race stint for SHR, is hoping to get her full-time NASCAR career off to a good start with a successful outing in Daytona.

“I'd really like to run well, and I don't just want to be here, I want to run well,” Patrick said during last week’s Daytona test. “I think at a place like Daytona there's that opportunity. I think I'll probably have slightly more realistic expectations for some of the other ones, but for this one at Daytona I think there's a real opportunity.”

The addition of Patrick isn’t the only change for Stewart’s operation this season. Steve Addington comes over from Penske Racing to take the crew chief position for the departed Darian Grubb. And Stewart’s long-time crew chief during his time at Joe Gibbs Racing joins the organization as Greg Zipadelli fills the vacant Director of Competition role.

Stewart is pleased to have his old friend and colleague in the fold.

“You know, it's nice having Zippy back,” Stewart said. “I got to work with him for ten years, so seeing him at the track here today was the first big reminder of kind of going back to what it was like to start with him in '99. I know we're excited to have him back, and we're not working in the same capacity together that we did for ten years, but he's right there next door, and it feels like home again. So I'm pretty excited about it.”

Stewart was also excited about how he spent some of his off-season midget racing, winning earlier this month in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and competing in the prestigious Chili Bowl. Stewart won a qualifying race at the indoor event in Tulsa, Oklahoma and finished tenth in Saturday night’s main event.

Stewart plans on continuing to compete in such events even as his NASCAR responsibilities grow.

“These kind of are special events. You don’t get points for it. It’s just bragging rights,” Stewart told The Associated Press. “What we do with the Cup series, it’s a lot of work but I enjoy it. It’s fun doing that too.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup

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