Stewart Stuck on Second
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on June 26, 2012 | 4:12 P.M. EST
Stewart has finished second in his last two starts, including a runner-up showing to Clint Bowyer this past weekend in Sonoma, Calif. (Photo: Getty Images)
Tony Stewart will take two consecutive second-place finishes into Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
The defending Sprint Cup Series champion came home in the runner-up spot behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. nine days ago at Michigan International Speedway and followed that with another second-place effort behind Clint Bowyer this past Sunday in Sonoma.
"Not bad,” Stewart said after this year's first road-course race. "I'm proud of (crew chief) Steve Addington and the guys. They worked hard and we had a car that was really, really good. We started too far back, but I think myself and Brian Vickers probably had two of the best cars.
“Obviously, the No. 51 (Kurt Busch) and the No. 15 (Bowyer) were really strong all day, too. I'm glad we got those cautions at the end that got us bunched up. That (gained) us some spots."
Stewart had his hands full in the closing laps fighting with Busch for position, finally getting around him on the last lap around the 1.99-mile road course. He was impressed with the way Busch battled for the spot considering the damage to his No. 51 Chevrolet.
"What everyone probably didn’t see was that something was wrong with his car," Stewart said. "Something in the rear-end was breaking and he was driving the wheels off that thing. I don’t know how he kept it on the racetrack. Every time he would go in the corner. it would get tight on him. He did a good job of keeping that thing going."
Stewart’s performance the last two weekends has moved him to fifth in the Sprint Cup Series point standings heading into Saturday night’s second visit to the 1.5-mile Kentucky track. Although he’s trying not to think about the championship at this point of the schedule with ten races left in the regular season, Stewart says he feels pretty good about where things stand as the calendar gets ready to flip to July.
“You feel better knowing you have two wins,” said Stewart, who finished 12th in last year’s inaugural Quaker State 400. “But the thing is, you don’t really think from that standpoint. You always go in there every weekend with the intention that you’re going to win the race.
“So you’re focusing on what you’ve got to do to keep your program good so when you get in the Chase and you get four or five weeks closer, you start paying more attention to it. But for right now, it’s just kind of the same thing we always talk about every year at this time. We’re taking it one week at a time and you’re just trying to make sure that every track you’re going to, you’re getting 100 percent out of what your package is. You just keep working toward that and thinking about that until you get four or five races (away) from the Chase.”
Currently holding a spot in the top 10 with two race wins, Stewart is one of four drivers in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the post-season Chase. The others are Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.