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Tag:Tony Stewart
Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:05 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 6:25 pm
 

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?


It didn't take long for Darian Grubb (right) to taste success with Denny Hamlin, winning Sunday at Phoenix. (AP)

Did Tony Stewart make a mistake dropping Darian Grubb as crew chief after winning 2011 title?

Pete Pistone

We'll probably never know the whole story of why Stewart decided to make a crew chief change. While Darian Grubb is one of the most talented in the sport, Stewart didn't downgrade by bringing Steve Addington into the fold.

Let's face it, the driver-crew chief role is as much about chemistry and building relationships as it is anything. While Grubb is as adept at setting up a car and calling a race as they come, maybe there was something not clicking exactly the right way between the duo. Addington is equally talented at the nuts and bolts of the job and his personality seems to mirror Stewart's. They've both said many times they are "cut from the same cloth," guys who grew up short track racing and worked their way to the top level of the sport. They share an old school racer's mentality and Stewart appears quite comfortable working with and hanging out with Addington.

Grubb may have already made it into the victory column first and I have no doubt he'll be successful with Hamlin at JGR. But Stewart won't suffer with Addington at the helm and whatever the behind the scenes reasoning might be of his parting ways with Grubb, the bottom line is all about comfort and chemistry. Stewart and Addington have that together and then some.

Brian De Los Santos

In a word -- yes.

Now as the story goes, the decision to part ways with Grubb came prior to the amazing streak they went on en route to the Sprint Cup championship. At the time the call was made in early October, it was probably the right move. For whatever reason, the 2011 regular season was a struggle for the 14 team with Stewart making the Chase by the skin of his teeth. Entering the Chase, I for one, didn't expect Stewart to be much of a factor.

Stewart surprised just about everybody winning the first two races of the Chase. But then a couple subpar races followed that strong start and Stewart decided it just wasn't working out. Thus, entering the second half of the Chase, Grubb was basically a lame duck crew chief. But he soldiered on, and despite the distraction, helped Stewart to victory in three of the final four races and the title. The finale at Homestead was especially a thing of beauty.

Not even five wins in 10 races was enough for Stewart to reconsider. Which seems strange to me. Clearly Grubb proved he could get the job done in the crunch. Can Stewart win with Steve Addington as his crew chief? Probably. But there's something to be said for continuity. After a finishing run that few outside of Chad Knaus-Jimmie Johnson have been able to muster, Stewart may find that cutting Grubb loose may not have been such a good idea, especially if Grubb and his new driver Denny Hamlin continue to knock out wins.

More NASCAR coverage

Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:36 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 5:08 pm
 

Tony Stewart tops first Phoenix practice

By Pete Pistone

SUBWAY FRESH FIT 500 PRACTICE ONE

Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart led the way in Friday's opening practice session for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Stewart turned a lap of 138.680 mph around the one-mile oval to pace the 90 minute session.

Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and last November's Phoenix winner Kasey Kahne, making his Hendrick Motorsports debut at the track, rounded out the top five.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray and last week's Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth completed the first ten.

A second practice is slated for later Friday afternoon with qualifying on tap Saturday.
 
More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: February 25, 2012 1:04 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 1:23 pm
 

Race Preview: Daytona 500

By Pete Pistone




(Danica Patrick hopes to have a much better day Sunday at Daytona than she did in Thursday's qualifying race)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For the 54th time NASCAR begins its season with the biggest race of the year. 

For the first time since 1992 a woman will be in the field. 

Danica Patrick has that honor coming twenty years after Shawna Robinson’s start in “The Great American race.” 

But Patrick says her celebrated start in Sunday’s Daytona 500, which has already generated more attention for the race than in recent years, shouldn’t be looked upon as any type of historical significance. 

“I’ve always been geared to just try and be the best driver I can be, not the best female driver,” said Patrick, who starts 29th on Sunday afternoon. “That’s been my approach from the day I first started in go-karts and it’s how I feel today as I get ready for Daytona.” 

Patrick’s week in Daytona has been eventful with a high-speed crash in her Gatorade Duel qualifying race and a pole position for Saturday’s Nationwide Series opener.

But despite her limited experience at NASCAR’s most famous track, Patrick is relatively comfortable at Daytona. 

“Well, with Daytona, it is a big track,” Patrick said. “It’s an easy track to drive. If you have a fast car, you’re going to probably go to the front. I think my inexperience is less of an issue because the car is easy to drive. For me, at a place like Daytona, it reminds me of racing in Indy Car. It reminds me of our mile-and-a-half racing where we would always be in a pack. There was no bump drafting in Indy Car, like there is in NASCAR. That too some getting used to a little bit.” 

Patrick’s teammate Tony Stewart may have more experience at Daytona but he has the same number of Daytona 500 victories. The defending series champion has won 17 times at the track, including his Thursday Duel, but has not yet won the most prestigious race. 

The three-time champion is well aware of the stat as he enters Sunday’s race. 

“I wouldn’t trade three championship to win Daytona,” he said. “It’s not a good feeling to not have that tally in the win column. Realistically, we have two tracks we haven’t won at; and the Daytona 500 we haven’t won. 

Everything else we have pretty much accomplished in this sport that we want to accomplish. 

“It’s the biggest race of the year; everyone wants to win that race. I won’t say that it is not a complete career if you don’t win it, but there is a lot of priority on winning it. Darrell Waltrip and Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. both had to go a long time before they got it.” 

It’s been a relatively long time since Dale Earnhardt Jr. actually won a Sprint Cup race at all. June of 2008 at Michigan International Speedway to be exact was the last time Junior went to victory lane. 

He won the 2004 “Great American Race” and would like nothing more than to finally end his more than three-year winless drought with a second win at Daytona. 

“You want to win any week you can but obviously Daytona is special,” said Earnhardt. “I’ve won this race before and it meant a lot then and to win it again this year would be a great way to continue the progress we’ve shown as a team over the last year or so.”

  

Daytona International Speedway 

Track Size: 2.5-mile

Race Length: 200 laps/500 miles 

Banking/Corners: 31 degrees 

Banking/Straights: 3 degrees 

Banking/Tri-Oval: 18 degrees 

Frontstretch: 1,760 feet 

Backstretch: 1,760 feet

   

Qualifying/Race Data 

2011 pole winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (186.089 mph, 48.364 seconds) 

2011 race winner: Trevor Bayne (130.326 mph, 2-20-11) 

Qualifying record: Bill Elliott (210.364 mph, 42.783 secs., 2-9-87) 

Race record: Buddy Baker (177.602 mph, 2-17-80)

  

Race Facts 

There have been 129 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since the track hosted its first race in 1959: 53 have been 500 miles, 49 were 400 miles and four 250 miles. There were also 23 qualifier races that were point races. 

Fireball Roberts won the inaugural pole at Daytona. 

Bob Welborn won the first race at Daytona, the 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500. 

Lee Petty won the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959. 

Fireball Roberts won the first 400-mile race at Daytona, the 1963 Firecracker 400. 

53 drivers have posted poles at Daytona. 

Cale Yarborough leads all drivers with 12 poles at Daytona. 

Bill Elliott leads all active drivers with five poles at Daytona. 

54 drivers have won at Daytona. 

Richard Petty leads all drivers in victories at Daytona with 10. 

Jeff Gordon has six victories at Daytona, more than any other active driver. 

The Wood Brothers have won 15 races at Daytona, more than any other car owner. 

17 full-length races at Daytona have been won from the pole; the last to do it was Kevin Harvick in last year’s Coke Zero 400. 

A driver has swept both races at Daytona only four times, most recently by Bobby Allison in 1982.
 

Who’s Hot at Daytona 

Kyle Busch – Daytona is still buzzing from Busch’s scintillating performance in the Budweiser Shootout and at this point his controversial ending to the 2011 season is a distant memory. Busch has comes to the 500 with three straight top five finishes at the track and has the look of a driver determined to make 2012 his season. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – The return of pack drafting has been music to Earnhardt’s ears, who is much more comfortable in the old style of restrictor plate racing than in the tandem draft of recent years. There’s a confidence in the Earnhardt camp that has carried over from last season, which could help propel Junior to a second Daytona 500 victory.

Carl Edwards – The pole sitter brings a sense of determination into 2012 after coming up just short of last year’s championship. The Ford camp has had a stellar Speedweeks from a speed perspective and Edwards will have plenty of teammates to work with in the draft. Had four straight top five finishes at Daytona until problems handed him thirty-seventh place finish last July.
  

Who’s Not 

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin’s already ahead of where he was at last year’s Speedweeks when his week in Daytona was marred by engine problems and a myriad of other woes. But he has a 22.1 average finish at Daytona for a reason.

Paul Menard – Has been very outspoken about NASCAR’s new restrictor plate rules package and the return of pack drafting. Not surprisingly Menard is on his third car of Speedweeks 

Brad Keselowski – Five starts at Daytona have added up to a 26.8 average finish. Has not had the best Speedweeks so far and has a learning curve ahead working with new teammate A.J. Allmendinger.

 

Notebook 

Groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway was Nov. 25, 1957. The soil underneath the banked corners was dug from the infield of the track and the hole filled with water. It is now known as Lake Lloyd. 

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona was a 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, 1959. 

Richard Petty won his 200th career race on July 4, 1984 at Daytona. 

Lights were installed in the spring of 1998. However, the July race was delayed until October that year due to thick smoke from wildfires. The second Daytona race has been held under the lights ever.

Although the first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, it has been the season-opener only since 1982.

518 drivers have competed in at least one Daytona 500; 306 in more than one. 

35 drivers have won a Daytona 500. 

Youngest Daytona 500 winner: Trevor Bayne (02/20/2011 - 20 years, 0 months, 1 days) 

Oldest Daytona 500 winner: Bobby Allison (02/14/1988 - 50 years, 2 months, 11 days) 

Eight drivers have won more than one Daytona 500, led by Richard Petty with seven victories. 

The eight drivers who have won the Daytona 500 more than once: Richard Petty (seven), Cale Yarborough(four), Bobby Allison (three), Dale Jarrett (three), Jeff Gordon (three), Bill Elliott (two), Sterling Marlin(two) and Michael Waltrip (two). 

Dale Earnhardt leads the series in runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500 with five; Kurt Busch leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 second-place finishes with three. 

Dale Earnhardt finished in the top 10 in 16 of his 23 Daytona 500s. 

Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each had 16 top 10s in the Daytona 500, more than any other driver. 

Dale Earnhardt had 12 top fives in the Daytona 500, more than any other driver. 

Only 13 drivers have an average finish of 10th or better in the Daytona 500, six of those competed in the Daytona 500 only once. 

Clint Bowyer has a 12.2 average finish in six appearances, the best of the active drivers who have competed in more than one Daytona 500. 

Lee Petty, who won the inaugural Daytona 500, and Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500 champion, are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 in their first appearance. 

28 of the 35 drivers who have won, participated in at least two Daytona 500s before visiting Victory Lane. 

Dale Earnhardt competed 19 times before winning his only Daytona 500 (1998), the longest span of any of the 35 race winners. 

Six drivers made 10 or more attempts before their first Daytona 500 victory: Dale Earnhardt (19), Buddy Baker(18), Darrell Waltrip (16), Bobby Allison (14), Michael Waltrip (14) and Sterling Marlin 12). 

The most Daytona 500s all-time without a victory was Dave Marcis (33 races). 

Mark Martin (27) leads active drivers without a victory. 

Six drivers posted their career-first victory with a win in the Daytona 500: Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti(1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994), Michael Waltrip (2001) andTrevor Bayne (2011). 

Three other drivers posted their career-first victory in (point-paying) qualifying races: Johnny Rutherford (1963),Bobby Isaac (1964) and Earl Balmer (1966). 

A driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s three times. Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95) 

Kevin Harvick’s 0.020-second margin of victory over Mark Martin in the 2007 Daytona 500 is the 12th-closest overall since the advent of electronic timing in 1993, and the closest in a Daytona 500. 

26 of the 53 Daytona 500s have been won from a top-five starting position. 

Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 from the 39th starting position in 2009, the deepest a race winner has started.

Nine have been won from the pole. The last to do so was Dale Jarrett in 2000.

16 Daytona 500s have been won from the front row.

Danica Patrick will become the third female driver to compete in a Daytona 500 joining Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson.

Daytona Speedweeks
Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:57 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 7:36 am
 

Tony Stewart, Steve Addington post Duel comments



Posted by Pete Pistone


Tony, you looked strong in the last part of that race.  That has to make you feel good about trying to capture your first Daytona 500. 

TONY STEWART:  Yeah, it really does.  We just had a great race car.  We had a great race car since we got here, especially when I messed up the car for Shootout, all three teams dug in together and got us a car put back together that almost won the Shootout the other night was a testimony to how hard this organization has worked. 

Have a great group at Stewart-Haas Racing that got this car ready, good horsepower from Hendrick Engines.  Really proud of this group and this guy next to us.  He hasn't been with us very long.  He just has done an awesome job of getting acclimated to a whole new organization, whole new group of guys, bringing two new racecars down here this week. 

KERRY THARP:  Steve Addington, congratulations.  Victory number one for you with Stewart-Haas Racing.  How does that feel? 

STEVE ADDINGTON:  It feels great.  Like Tony said, everybody in the organization has welcomed me with open arms, has got in there and done everything that I've asked of them.  Just told me whatever they need, they'd get it done for me.  The reason I came here is because there's a bunch of racers there.  We just want to go win races.  I'm pretty happy about my decision.  

KERRY THARP:  We'll take questions.  

Q.  Tony, did you see Danica's crash behind you?  What were your impressions of the way she raced today in the draft? 

TONY STEWART:  I mean, I got to see a replay of it, but I didn't see how it started.  I saw in the mirror on the last lap, saw her car making a hard left there.  Didn't know what's start of that was. 

Kept looking in my mirror to see what was going on behind me, see where she was at.  The good thing, with a fluorescent green car, she's easy to pick out.  Impressive to see how she kept picking her way through the field.  I think she got up to sixth at one point the way I saw it. 

I thought she did a pretty good job.  I think I'll get a better shot to understanding exactly how her race went when I get to see a replay of the race. The little bit I could see, I thought she did a good job.  There wasn't any doubt in my mind she would do that. 

It's hard for her now because she's trying to gain the confidence of the guys around her that she's solid and is going to make good decisions, not just going to pull the pin every time she gets the opportunity to break out a line. 

I think there's more aggression and confidence in her than what she showed here today.  It shows her poise and what she's trying to do to gain the other drivers' confidence. 

Q.  On the restart at the end of the race when you lost the lead briefly, how much confidence did you have when you got it back so easily on the backstretch? 

TONY STEWART:  Felt like being on the bottom was probably the better spot to be in, to be honest.  Kevin Harvick was an awesome teammate for me today.  Having a Team Chevy driver behind us was a big key. 

Kevin and I have always worked well together, especially at the restrictor plate tracks.  Having him with us was kind of a good, comforting feeling knowing he was with us on the inside there. 

But, I mean, it was hard.  They got a pretty good run on the outside.  He was able to get caught back up to us.  Once he got there, we drove on from the pack there.  Felt good we had two good Chevys there.  

Q.  Tony, you have 17 wins at this track, but no Daytona 500.  You have now a first and a second this week at this track.  How much momentum is that going to give you for Sunday?  What are your biggest challenges going into Sunday? 

TONY STEWART:  Well, I mean, obviously the fact that we've won 17 times here and not won on the right day is proof it's good momentum, but it's no guarantee obviously.  It's nice to come here, especially for Steve and I, being our first race together, to be able to come out and have two really good strong and solid races back-to-back is an awesome start for us. 

It's good momentum for the crew, everybody at Stewart Haas Racing, to carry that momentum from last year.  It gives you confidence going into Sunday.  We only raced against half the field in this qualifier.  We got the other half going off now.  Just trying to see how strong those guys are. 

It's a long race on Sunday and a lot can happen.  Even though we had success today, it's no guarantee that can happen Sunday. 

I think we showed the rest of the field that we have a car that has good speed.  That's a really strong point, just like Trevor Bayne showed last year he had a strong car, so people wanted to go with him.  Hopefully that will work for us on Sunday, too.  

Q.  Were you at all nervous?  You said after the Shootout you knew you were a sitting duck in front of Kyle Busch.  Did you have any nervous moments being out front on that last lap?

TONY STEWART:  Well, the hard part was I got a really good push from Kevin that got us back in the lead there from third.  The hard part is when it got us up there, they separated us.  That easily could have got us freight trained to the back. 

Where Kevin was, he ended up just being two wide with Dale Jr., that pulled both of their momentum.  My spotter told me to get hooked back up with Kevin.  To me, I felt it was better to keep the momentum going. 

I felt like unless they just got a really big run, we were going to be able to pick which line got going and be able to hopefully protect and stay leading that line. 

So felt like we were better off trying to keep the momentum than trying to break it, get hooked up with Kevin again, take a chance of getting passed by a bunch of guys not having that opportunity again.  

Q.  Tony, very strong Saturday night, very strong today.  How hard is it not to show everything you got before Sunday?  Maybe Steve wants to talk about that. 

TONY STEWART:  Like we said, at least from my side, I mean, I want those guys to see that we've got strength.  I mean, I think that's why, you know, Jeff Gordon stayed with Trevor Bayne, that's why everybody wanted to run with Trevor last year during the 500, because he showed a lot of strength. 

I think it's an advantage to do that at this point of the game, showing that guys around you are going to hopefully want to be around you and know that you got a car that can stay up there, so they want to stay with you. 

I think it's a plus.  From Steve's side it might be different. 

STEVE ADDINGTON:  I think the speed that we saw in practice yesterday, I think everybody paid attention to that.  He made comment of it.  He said, Maybe everybody was looking at that and seeing how fast we were pulling the pack in practice. 

Felt good.  Felt like if we got in that situation, that we was going to have people that were going to go with us. 

Q.  Steve, everybody was saying on the radio afterwards, Don't put anything on the car.  Keep the car clean.  What do you do and not do with this thing over the next few days? 

STEVE ADDINGTON:  We're going to put our Daytona 500 race engine in it, a couple of freshened up parts and pieces, run a few laps, make sure we don't have any leaks or vibrations or anything.  We're going to put it on jack stands.  Our focus is on Sunday. 

We talked about it when he got in the car, just fill it out, we'll do what we need to do, but we needed to have this piece for Sunday to have a chance to win the race on Sunday.  That's our game plan, to take care of this thing till Sunday.  

Q.  Tony, what was your temperature gauge showing you throughout the race and how did it fluctuate depending on the configuration you were running?

TONY STEWART:  The needle kept moving all day back and forth.  Let's just say I was watching it a lot today (laughter).  

Q.  Tony, as a fellow driver/owner, do you feel for Michael Waltrip when you see him wreck?  He started 25 straight here.  Pretty impressive streak that would come to an end. 

TONY STEWART:  And Michael is very passionate about restrictor plate racing.  There's a lot of us that like it when we get back to normal racing. This is Michael's specialty.  This is what he eats, lives and breathes, is Daytona and Talladega.  It would be a shame if he doesn't make it. 

He's put a great effort with great teams out here and he's got some good full time teams.  He takes that pressure on himself of having to race his way in.  It shows what kind of car owner he really is.  It would be a shame if he misses it.  

Q.  Tony, the pack racing seemed much more tame today than it did on Saturday night.  What did you learn about the racing today and what do you expect on Sunday?  Do you expect it to be a bit calmer?

TONY STEWART:  I think it will be similar to what you're seeing today.  You know, you got to make this thing    you got to get these cars to 500 miles.  It doesn't matter what you do at 150.  It's a long day.  You're going to have to take care of the engine.  You're going to have to take care of the nose and the tail on these cars and not get yourself in compromising positions. 

I think the guys that get impatient are the guys that will get in trouble, and the guys that are smart will race smart.  I think that's typically what it comes down to here anyway. 

500 miles at a superspeedway is a long, long, long race.  You just got to race the race, you know, be careful of who you're around, knowing when to push, knowing when to ride, and take care of it.  

Q.  Tony, there's a list of drivers over the years that have been the best of the time, certainly leading drivers.  If history was written right now, you would be on it, who haven't won this race.  What is the problem here?  Is it just because we focus on just this place, and if we looked at other tracks, the same situation would exist? 

TONY STEWART:  I don't know.  I mean, there's just something magical about Daytona.  Just like IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 are the same way.  When it's the most important race of your season, especially the first one, all the drivers and all the teams and all the crews put more pressure on themselves for that one race than they do anywhere else the rest of the year. 

Especially at a place where the draft is so important, you don't get away from each other.  It really brings everybody into the fold and everybody has a shot at winning this race. 

It just leads for no mistakes.  You have to get every little ounce of performance that you can get out of these cars.  So, you know, it puts a lot of pressure into what it takes to win this race.  

Q.  Steve, talking about momentum.  When you came into the situation, you took over a team with momentum, did you make any changes?  Talk a little bit about how that was, how your personality may have affected this. 

STEVE ADDINGTON:  I didn't make any major changes.  It was just moving a couple of people around or whatever.  But they had a good baseline.  I just went in there, and we've talked about it, and we're not going to change baselines.  We got racetracks that the 14 and 39 both struggled on that I've had success at that we're going to implement some of the things that I do different than what they did. 

We're just going to build on it.  We did a Texas tire test.  We just implemented a couple little things.  Trying to build on it to make it better.  You'd be an idiot to go in there and blow the thing out of the water. 

Just to be smart about it, look at the baseline, build on it to go out and win races all year long. 

 
Daytona Speedweeks


Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 7:28 pm
 

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

By Pete Pistone



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For the first time since 1972 there will not be a Waltrip in the Daytona 500.

Unfortunately for Michael Waltrip he was one of the big losers in Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races and failed to qualify for Sunday's "Great American Race."

Waltrip, who crashed in the day's first 150-mile race, wasn't alone in the disappointment department with the likes of Kenny and Mike Wallace, Bill Elliott, J.J. Yeley and Robert Richardson Jr. also missing out on gaining a spot in the biggest race of the season.

"I just went the wrong way and lost the car," said Waltrip, who after hitting pit road for fuel lost control of his Hillman Racing Toyotya while racing through turns one and two. "I feel like I let everybody down. I raced my way to the front and then I let them down. It’s just really hard. I don’t know what to say -- it’s just sad. Thankful to my team and Aaron’s for giving me the opportunity and hate that I let everybody down.” 

Kenny Wallace was trying to drive the underfunded RAB Racing Toyota into Sunday's race and was the victim of a fuel pick-up problem that mired him deep in the field unable to challenge for the spot he needed to transfer to the 500.

"It's a tough pill to swallow for sure," said Wallace. "This team tried so hard and it just wasn't meant to be. But I'm so proud of the effort put forth to try and get into the Daytona 500 and that's what I'll take away from today's experience."

On the other side of the coin were the stories of drivers that survived Thursday with what they needed to move on to Sunday.

Michael McDowell and Robby Gordon transfered from the day's opening race and both drivers were thankful for the turn of events that led to their starts in the 500.

"It's amazing," said McDowell, who got a push from his friend and defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne to help secure the sixth place finish. "I've been here once before and made the race. I had to qualify in and I've been on the outside looking in too, so just know that this is extremely special not just for me and my family, but for our whole team. Phil Parsons Racing is a small team. We've got six guys back at the shop that worked really hard in the off-season to give us a fast car..."

Gordon had an early race scare when smoke started to billow from his Dodge but was able to nurse his car through that issue and notch the ninth place finish he needed to make the 500.

"It's big for us," said Gordon, who ran a partial schedule last season in his independent entry. "We were in a position last year, it sounds kind of crazy, we've won Indy Car races, I've won NASCAR races and we were in position we didn't have the funding to run all of the races so we found ourselves outside the Top 35.

"I'm proud of my guys. I'm proud of my team and I'm proud of the Daytona 500."

Two other David vs.Goliath stories played out in the day's second race when Joe Nemechek and Dave Blaney punched their tickets to the 500.

For the journeyman Nemechek, a former Nationwide Series champion who made every Sprint Cup race last year with his small operation, making Daytona was a key to his entire 2012 effort.

"We're not sure what we can do this year," Nemechek said. "But now just getting into this race is such a huge shot in the arm for this team and will go a long way in helping us this year to say the least. This is so hard but we just keep plugging away and this was a great day for this race.

Blaney, who saw his guaranteed Daytona starting spot go to Danica Patrick when Tommy Baldwin Racing createda "collaborative partnership" with Stewart-Haas Racing, was forced to race his way into the big event with a twelfth place finish Thursday.

"Nah I don't feel any satisfaction or redemption," Blaney said. "Just happy to be able to start in the Daytona 500."

 
Daytona Speedweeks
Posted on: February 22, 2012 4:20 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 4:24 pm
 

Tony Stewart now a fan of pack racing

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - There was a time when Tony Stewart despised pack drafting at restrictor plate tracks like Daytona and Talladega.

But that was then and this is now and the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion is now a proponent of the pack being back as has been the case this week at Daytona.

“I think a lot of it is that the bumpers didn’t line-up as good then as they do now," Stewart said of the old style car compared with today's next generation Sprint Cup machine. "So if you do get put in a situation where you do run into somebody it doesn’t just instantly wreck them. And that was kind of the thing that you worried about was just getting run into from behind.

"We’ve had to push ourselves as drivers over the last couple of years to learn how to do this two-car deal (tandem racing) and you take a step back to going back to pack racing and it’s like wow, it’s just so much easier. You’re not having to hold your breath all the time and not having to clinch the steering wheel so tight all the time. I think mainly the difference between now and ’06 is just you know that the bumpers line up and ’06 was before they repaved the track, too. So we’ve got a lot more grip in the race track which gives us a little more security also.” 

After comign up just short of a win in the Shootout thanks to Kyle Busch's last second pass at the finish line, Stewart now sets his sights on getting ready for Sunday's Daytona 500.

He'll take part in Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying races and has an idea of what he'd like to accomplish in the warm-up prior to the 500.

“I think kind of similarly to what we did basically at the beginning of the Shootout," said Stewart explaining his approach to the Duel. "I think we’ve got a really good car for Sunday, so you want to get the best finishing position you can in the Shootout without beating up the race car. So, we’re going to try to do everything we can to now put ourselves in bad situations. But when it comes to the end of the race tomorrow, we’ll push really hard to see how far up we can get and try to get a good spot, but I guess the biggest variable in the equation is just don’t hurt the car that we’ve got."

Stewart's starting position in the Daytona 500 will be determined by his Duel finish but even if he doesn't get the performance Thursday he's hoping for, the three-time series champ is confident about his chances in "The Great American Race."

"We’re locked into the race and I think even if we don’t get the starting spot we want, I still think you can come from the back much easier and get to the front," Stewart said. "The biggest thing is to just take care of the race car. But the racer in you at the end of the day still wants to go get the best finish you can.” 


 
Daytona Speedweeks
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:55 pm
 

Repeat definitely on Tony Stewart's mind

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Make no mistake, Tony Stewart has his eyes set on a second straight Sprint Cup Series championship.

Stewart's impressive performance down the stretch to win last year's title has the three time champ pumped up about his prospects for 2012. Even though his stirring run to win the crown at Homestead was more than three months ago, Stewart remains sky high on the eve on the brand new season.

"I mean in all honesty we have still been riding that high, but we really didn’t sit there and say hey we are celebrating a championship," Stewart explained at Thursday's Media Day session.  "That lasted through the banquet then it was right back to work.  I mean we were immediately back on the job of trying to figure out how to do the same thing this year.  It was easy to do that having Zippy (Greg Zippadelli) and (crew chief) Steve Addington come on board, guys that weren’t really with us when we won the championship at the end of the year.  Their focus was on what we were going to do this year so it kind of got the whole mindset of the shop to not get lazy and think about what we accomplished last year and get working on what we can do to try to repeat this year.”

As for scoping out this year's competition and handicapping the field in this year's title derby, Stewart will need some time to see exactly what his re-tooled race team has for 2012.

“I don’t think we know until we start," he said  "The hard thing is you have to improve through the winter and all the teams will improve.  It is just a matter of if we get five percent better and someone else gets seven percent better is that enough to put them ahead of us.  I don’t think you really know until you get two or three races into the year exactly see what the results are from the winter and the hard work.”

Don't ask Stewart how he was able to take a so-so regular season effort and turn it into one of the sport's most dramatic runs for teh championship when he won five of the final 10 Chase races to edge Carl Edwards in a tiebreaker.

“I can’t, I still can’t," he said.  "I wish I could explain it.  The way our year went, it was like the first 26 weeks anything that could go wrong went wrong, something went wrong every week.  The days that we didn’t have a problem, we just missed it on the set-up.  The days that we were good, something would happen, we would have pit strategy go wrong or something would happen.  Those last 10 weeks, with the exception of Dover, everything kind of went right.”

 

More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: January 23, 2012 4:04 pm
 

Danica Patrick ready for NASCAR only focus

By Pete Pistone

CHARLOTTE - She'll have a busy schedule ahead of her but Danica Patrick is concetrating solely on NASCAR this season.

Patrick has a full Nationwide Series season planned for JR Motorsports and a ten race Sprint Cup Series schedule for Stewart-Haas Racing.

That won't leave her any time to even consider running the Indianapolis 500 in 2012 and quite frankly she finds some comfort in the decision.

“It’s kind of a relief to just focus on NASCAR as I have a lot to learn and I’m going to need to focus completely on it,” Patrick said. "I know that I am going to have the whole season to do that, and that makes me feel good. And with more racing, there are going to be more expectations to do well, and I want to do that and the focus will help that.” 

Patrick admitted to trying to work out something to continue her participation at Indy Memorial Day weekend but the hectic pace of her NASCAR schedule was something she couldn't work around.

“Qualifying at Indy is the same weekend as the Iowa [Nationwide] race and I have had great moments with qualifying where it is over and done with very quickly and I’ve had dramatic weekends where it goes on until the very end," she said during Monday's opening day of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour. "Having that chance that it might go on until the very end would interfere with the Nationwide schedule, and I can’t have that.

“Just like when I raced IndyCar and did part-time NASCAR, it was all about making sure everything was good to go on the IndyCar side and nothing interfered. The same applies with the Nationwide Series and making sure I am there for every moment of it and as prepared as possible. That was definitely a concern – the schedule. And then beyond that, the deal business-wise didn’t work out.”

Her new Sprint Cup team boss Tony Stewart said he was in favor of Patrick trying to work out a deal to run Indy and that he in now way stood in her way.

However at the end of the day Stewart is pleased Patrick will be able to concentrate on NASCAR only this year.

“It was her decision. We didn’t tell her that she couldn’t run the 500, it was left up to her,” Stewart said. “But obviously she is running the Nationwide car full time and it’s a good weekend to get a lot of laps in the car.

“It shows how dedicated she is to making this transition.”

 
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