Stewart Seeks Stability

Tony Stewart

"Chad did some great things at MWR during his time there and Mark speaks very highly of working with him." (Photo: Getty Images)

Tony Stewart is hoping his third crew chief since starting at Stewart-Haas Racing will lead him back to being consistently competitive.

Chad Johnston will call the shots for Stewart and the No. 14 Chevrolet out of the Stewart-Haas Racing stable this season. He follows Darian Grubb and Steve Addington who were Stewart’s last two crew chiefs at SHR.

Throw in Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s director of competition, who was Stewart’s crew chief in their Joe Gibbs Racing days, and the three-time champion has had a variety of voices in his ear in recent years.

But Stewart thinks Johnston is the right man for the job and cites his track record at Michael Waltrip Racing and a recommendation from Mark Martin, who raced at MWR before joining Stewart’s team as a consultant.

“Chad did some great things at MWR during his time there and Mark speaks very highly of working with him,’’ Stewart said.

In addition to finding chemistry and stability with Johnston, Stewart also has the added challenge of coming back from a serious leg injury that sidelined him in August and caused him to miss the final 15 Sprint Cup races of the season.

He admits he won’t be 100 percent when Speedweeks kicks off and also knows the risk of reinjuring himself. But Stewart remains undaunted.

“The reality is it could get injured again,” he said. “The risk is no more than it normally would be, it’s just a matter of what we have to do comfort-wise. We’re trying to be proactive and think of everything we can, whether it’s adding padding here and there to make it more comfortable, to protect it. We’re trying to make sure we’re doing things that will keep it from being aggravated or re-injured.”

There’s also more than simply getting back to being physically fit for Stewart once he climbs behind the wheel. But Stewart believes he’s more than ready on that front.

“I’ve broke my hand before,’’ he said. “I’ve broken my shoulder blade, the back of my left hip. I’ve had injuries, but not to this extent. That strength comes back very quickly once you get in the car. We’re still doing a lot of things in therapy that’s building that strength as well.
“Driving a race car is as much mental as it is physical and on the mental side we’re plenty good and ready to go.”

NASCAR has cleared Stewart to return to racing Feb. 13.

"Friday and Saturday coming up at Daytona are going to answer a lot of questions I have and that you guys have, too," Stewart said during the recent NASCAR Sprint Media Tour. "We're doing everything we can to prepare for whatever scenario we can think of. I'm hoping we go out in the first session and we're going to say we worked way too hard."

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