It’s hard to believe, but no driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history has ever won the first three races of the Chase. Not to mention, Tony Stewart has never won three straight Cup races. Having said that, could all of that change on Sunday?
There is still the remote possibility of that actually happening during Sunday’s running of the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Stewart, who went 0 for 26 during the regular season, won at Chicagoland and at New Hampshire, becoming the second driver to open the Chase with two victories, matching Greg Biffle’s start in 2008.
However, Biffle stumbled and finished third in the Chase standings that year. This is a lesson learned by Stewart, as he knows winning the first two races of the Chase doesn’t guarantee a Chase Championship.
“It’s early,” Stewart said after his Friday practice run.
Stewart has had previous success before, as he last won back-to-back races in 2006, when he won the fall races at Atlanta and Texas in the only year he failed to make the Chase.
Stewart swept Dover in 2000, but has struggled on the Monster Mile in recent memory. If you want an example of this, just look back to last year. Stewart had a P29 finish there last spring and a P21 run last fall. His average finish at Dover since winning those races in 2000 is 14.5
“We just haven’t been very good here the last couple of races, so we definitely need to pick up our performance this week,” Stewart said.
Let’s just put it this way- Sunday will not be a ‘walk in the park’ for Stewart.
Knowing all of the information before you, one with reason might bring up the question, “What has happened since 2000?” This is a question that has pondered the previous NASCAR champion.
“Technology has changed a lot in the last 13 years. The cars have changed a lot. The tires have changed a lot,” Stewart said. “There have been a lot of variables that have changed.”
Do you want to hear another amazing stat? Stewart has led only 37 laps in the two races he has won this year (led only 2 laps at New Hampshire, as he took over the lead from Bowyer as he ran out of fuel).
“In the first two races they were on the right side of the equation when it came to fuel mileage,” SHR teammate Ryan Newman said of the No. 14 group. “They were withing a lap or a lap and a half in some cases of taking both of those firsts to 21st.
“That is not luck necessarily, but that is marginal. It is not they are going out there and dominating the race … but they have regrouped as a team.”
Along with those two wins he has had during the Chase, Stewart has also finished P3 at Atlanta and P7 at Richmond leading into the Chase.
Could this also provide the momentum needed to make history at Dover?
“The last four weeks have been awesome,” he said, “but we’ve got a tough hurdle ahead of us at Dover. That’s the one race in the Chase I’m worried about the most, but this is the best scenario we can have going into it.
“Our guys are pumped up, and I’m proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas racing. They never give up. We’re going to keep digging these next eight weeks.”
If you’re a Stewart fan, I would be watching Sunday’s running of the AAA 400 with much anticipation, as Stewart will still be a favorite to continue his winning streak. If you’re not a Stewart fan, just know that history is not on Stewart’s side as we head into the third leg of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.