Four-time premier series champion last won at 1.5-mile track in May Jeff Gordon has the most career wins at Kansas Speedway with three. In 17 starts at the 1.5-mile track, Gordon also has 10 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. The four-time premier series champion won the latest race at the track in May, leading the final eight laps to take the 5-hour Energy 400 for his first win of the 2014 Sprint Cup Series season.
Four-time champion just 13 wins away from second on all-time list RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize DOVER, Del. -- With all the jockeying for Chase positions in the middle of the field, it was difficult at times to focus on what was happening at the front of the field in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. At the end of the day, Jeff Gordon took the checkered flag for the 92nd time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career and took another stride toward a milestone everyone -- including Gordon -- once thought was untouchable. Make no mistake. Gordon already is in rarified air when it comes to his accomplishments in stock car racing. With 92 victories, he's third on the all-time list. He's a four-time series champion with an abiding hunger for a fifth title. He's a shoo-in for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And he's now within sight, at least, of David Pearson's 105 career Cup wins, second all-time. A few scant years ago, catching Pearson was the furthest thing from Gordon's mind. He was having some serious issues with his back. Gordon and wife Ingrid added to their family with the births of daughter Ella and son Leo. Gordon wasn't particularly fond of NASCAR's Gen-5 platform, introduced into the Sprint Cup Series in 2007 as the Car of Tomorrow. And, when asked, he would dismiss Pearson's milestone as an impossibility. Now, it seems that only Richard Petty's unassailable series-record 200 victories is out of reach. Through treatment and exercise, Gordon's back is better. NASCAR's new Gen-6 race car better suits his driving style, especially since the implementation of the no-ride-height rules this year. Gordon has bonded with crew chief Alan Gustafson, and together they have found top-of-the-line speed in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Despite his superstar status within NASCAR racing and the crossover appeal that makes him a comfortable fill-in co-host with Kelly Ripa, for example, Gordon isn't above team-building within his organization. Two days before the AAA 400 , after a hair-raising qualifying lap at the Monster Mile, Gordon spent the evening at a local Dover fish house with Gustafson and his crew. Wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap and sitting inconspicuously at a family-style table, Gordon was just one of the guys. On the track on Sunday, he was an opportunist. Kevin Harvick was the class of the field, but mechanical issues bit Harvick's No. 4 Chevrolet as they often have since his last victory at Darlington in April. Gordon seized the moment, passed Brad Keselowski for the lead on Lap 305 of 400 and controlled the balance of the race. As he invariably does, Gordon deflected talk of reaching the century mark in victories. "I'm going to tell you the same thing I say every time I'm sitting here after a win: It's awesome to have 92, and I look forward to challenging for 93," Gordon said in the Dover media center. "I can't even think about 100 until we get to 99. "I mean, I never dreamed in a million years that I would be here talking to you after 92 wins, and especially at this point in my career, this many years in the sport, to be having the year that we're having, it's just something I never thought could happen. It feels amazing, and right now if I felt like we could stay this competitive for the next several years, I would say, yeah, we could get there." But Gordon, of course, has a more immediate goal. "We're just laser-focused on this championship and going to the next race," he said. "I don't think we're going to get to 100 this year, but I hope we get past 93. That would be pretty awesome to get a couple more, and it almost takes a win to get to Homestead. That's our goal, getting to Homestead, whatever it takes." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Using average-finish stats, here are your Contender Round favorites MORE: 12 drivers advance to Contender Round " Full race results " Updated series standings RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota When handicapping the 12 drivers in the Contender Round of the Chase Grid, it helps to put one foot in the past and one foot in the present to hopefully make a confident step toward the future. So what we've done is capture the past and present in the form of average-finish stats in order to predict the eight drivers who will advance to the Eliminator Round in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The three statistical categories we examined are: average finish for the 2014 season, average finish in the past five races and average finish at the Contender Round tracks. These categories were chosen because they will help tell us who has been the most consistent driver this season, as well as who's hot right now and who has the best chance to perform well in the next three races. By assigning a point value to how each driver ranked in each category (example: Jeff Gordon got 12 points for being the best driver in average finish for this season, while Kyle Busch got one point for being the worst), there is a total at the end and four drivers will be eliminated. Sounds fun, right? Let's get to it: Average finish this season Rank Driver Avg. Finish Points 1 Jeff Gordon 10.0 12 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 11.0 11 3 Joey Logano 12.2 10 4 Brad Keselowski 12.4 9 5 Jimmie Johnson 13.4 8 6 Matt Kenseth 13.8 7 7 Kevin Harvick 14.0 6 8 Ryan Newman 14.0 5 9 Carl Edwards 14.8 4 10 Denny Hamlin 15.5 3 11 Kasey Kahne 16.5 2 12 Kyle Busch 17.1 1 Inside the Numbers: It shouldn't surprise any NASCAR fans to see the names at the top of this list. Gordon, Earnhardt Jr., Logano, Keselowski and Johnson have all had great seasons, combining for 19 victories with each driver getting at least three wins. Keselowski leads with five wins, including at Richmond and in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway. Logano and Gordon followed Keselowski by winning the Chase races at New Hampshire and Dover , respectively. Dale Earnhardt Jr. started the season strong with a victory in the Daytona 500 and followed that up by sweeping the races at Pocono, but as we'll see in the next statistical category (last five races), he hasn't been the hottest driver among the Chase participants entering the Contender Round. Average finish last five races Rank Driver Avg. Finish Points 1 Joey Logano 5.8 12 2 Jimmie Johnson 6.4 11 3 Kevin Harvick 9 10 4 Jeff Gordon 9.6 9 5 Brad Keselowski 10 8 6 Kyle Busch 11 7 7 Ryan Newman 11.4 6 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12 5 9 Kasey Kahne 14.8 4 10 Carl Edwards 15 3 11 Matt Kenseth 15.8 2 12 Denny Hamlin 15.8 1 Inside the Numbers: Junior lands in the middle of the pack with an average finish of 12th in the last five races. That gives him five points in our formula, because he was better than only Denny Hamlin , Matt Kenseth , Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne . Dale Jr.'s 17th-place finish at Dover followed an 11th at Atlanta, a 12th at Richmond , an 11th at Chicago and a ninth at New Hampshire. Not exactly bad by any means, but he isn't tearing it up, either. Keselowski took home eight points in this category, which might be difficult to believe considering he won two races in this span. But a 39th-place finish at Atlanta to begin the five-race stretch skewed his numbers. If you discount that race, Keselowski's average finish over the past four races is an incredible 2.75 -- so he might be a little hotter than these numbers suggest. Average finish at Contender Round tracks Rank Driver Avg. Finish Points 1 Jimmie Johnson 12 12 2 Jeff Gordon 14.2 11 3 Brad Keselowski 14.23 10 4 Carl Edwards 14.33 9 5 Kevin Harvick 14.57 8 6 Matt Kenseth 15.37 7 7 Kasey Kahne 15.4 6 8 Denny Hamlin 15.97 5 9 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 16.53 4 10 Joey Logano 17.63 3 11 Ryan Newman 19.73 2 12 Kyle Busch 19.9 1 Inside the Numbers: Johnson has by far the best average finish at the Contender Round tracks, more than two positions better than his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon. So for those who don't want to see "Six-Time" become "Seven-Time," avert your eyes from this chart -- it's a sign that the No. 48 team could get stronger as the Chase moves on. Kyle Busch has a history of volatility at these tracks, so you might want to choose someone else in the Chase Grid Battle Game presented by Toyota. Fans might be familiar with Busch's struggles at Kansas (average finish of 22.7), which is where his Chase imploded last season, but he's almost equally as bad at Talladega (21.4). Busch said he and crew chief Dave Rogers tried a different car in the spring race at Kansas , leading to a top-15. The Final Outcome Rank Driver Points 1 Jeff Gordon 32 2 Jimmie Johnson 31 3 Brad Keselowski 27 4 Joey Logano 25 5 Kevin Harvick 24 6 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 20 7 Matt Kenseth 16 8 Carl Edwards 16 9 Ryan Newman 13 10 Kasey Kahne 12 11 Kyle Busch 9 12 Denny Hamlin 9 There you have it, the eight drivers who will move on to the Eliminator Round. Of course, we'll have to see how it actually plays out, but since this was fun, let's try it again when we get to the final eight to see who has the best shot of making the Championship Four. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Scores fourth win of 2014; one of 12 drivers to advance to Contender Round MORE: 12 drivers advance to Contender Round " Full race results " Updated series standings RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Jeff Gordon took the checkered flag in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway , but four other drivers got the axe in the first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup elimination race in the history of the sport. AJ Allmendinger , 2004 series champion Kurt Busch , Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola missed the cut for the next round of the Chase, as the field was pared from 16 drivers to 12 following the third and final Challenger Round race. After the dominant car of Coors Light Polesitter Kevin Harvick had a major issue with the left front wheel on Lap 254 of 400, Gordon took control of the event on Lap 305, passing runner-up Brad Keselowski for the lead on Lap 305. After a cycle of green-flag pit stops, Gordon led the last 71 laps, pulling away to win by a comfortable 4.352 seconds. Jimmie Johnson ran third, followed by Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth , as all of the top-five drivers advanced to the Contender Round, a three-race elimination with visits to Kansas Speedway , Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Harvick (13th Sunday), Kyle Busch (10th), Dale Earnhardt Jr . (17th), Ryan Newman (eighth), Carl Edwards (11th) and Denny Hamlin (12th) also advanced to the Contender Round. The victory was Gordon’s fourth of the season, fifth at the Monster Mile and 92nd of his career, third most all-time behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). And victory No. 92 had special significance beyond an automatic ticket to the next round of the Chase—especially after a blown tire last week at New Hampshire produced a 26th-place finish and put the four-time champion one disaster away from elimination from NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. "I think this is huge," Gordon said in Victory Lane. "We came in here with a little bit of extra pressure because we weren’t guaranteed to be in. If we hadn’t finished where we were running at New Hampshire last week (sixth when the tire blew), it would have been kind of an easy day for us. "But all we did was focus on executing as a team and trying to win this race and nothing else. It wasn’t about the points; it wasn’t about just squeezing by to get to the next round. It was about making a statement. I don’t know how you make a bigger statement than what this team just did right there." If Gordon took the suspense out of the closing laps, making what he called a "statement" with the victory, there was plenty of drama mid-pack, as Kasey Kahne rallied from four laps down to claim the 12th and final spot in the next round by two points over Allmendinger, who finished 23rd to Kahne’s 20th. On Lap 161, Kahne brought his No. 5 Chevrolet to pit road with a loose left rear wheel and lost two laps in the process. He lost two more during a subsequent green-flag pit stop. Thanks to a wave-around and a timely caution for Harvick’s issue on Lap 254, Kahne ran the rest of the race one lap down and gained enough positions to knock both Busch and Allmendinger out of the Chase. Keselowski already had a victory in the Chase and a guaranteed spot in the Contender Round, but he wanted more. "Yeah, we've had a really good start, so we can't really complain that much having won a race, and a second and a seventh," Keselowski said. "But it's hard to look at that. All I can think about is how I wanted to win all three races, and now it's time to move forward. "Three more races, a new start, and what we were able to do in these last three, other than getting us to this next round, really mean nothing. We've got to keep our head on straight and push forward these next three like we have these last three." All 12 remaining Chase drivers start the Contender Round with a baseline of 3,000 points. Any Chase driver who wins at Kansas, Charlotte or Talladega will advance automatically to the Eliminator Round. The Chase field will be reduced from 12 to eight drivers at Talladega. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Get the latest Jeff Gordon news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Jeff Green news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Jeff Agnew news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Jeff Burton news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Jeff Green news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Read complete text of Stewart's first Q-and-A with reporters since incident RELATED: Stewart answers questions for first time " Stewart timeline THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Mike Arning, Director of Communications for Stewart-Haas Racing and want to say thank you for your time this morning. We'll introduce Tony Stewart and start off with any questions you may have. Q. Tony, since the accident, when you think of Kevin Ward, Jr., what comes to mind? TONY STEWART: Honestly, before the accident I didn't know Kevin. I don't even know how many times I had raced with him. I race with that group a couple times a year. They've always been a great group to race with, but I didn't know him. Obviously, after the accident I've read a lot about him, and from what I've read, I think he had a really promising career as a sprint car driver. It sounded like he was doing a good job and learning a lot at a young age, so I think he had a lot to look forward to. Q. Do you want to and need to talk to the Ward family to have any sort of closure? If so, can you talk to him or will it be years before all the legal stuff is done before you can talk to them? TONY STEWART: You know, I think at this point it's -- I want to be available to them if they want to talk about it. At this point, I don't need to talk to them for closure. I know what happened, and I know it was an accident, but I'm offering to talk to them to help them, if it helps them with closure. So I said it when we were in Atlanta, and I still believe that I want to be available to them if and when they ever want to talk. Q. On the topic of closure, at some point the focus will turn back to your career as a race car driver. Have you thought about when or how that can happen? TONY STEWART: Well, I mean, we've been racing since Atlanta, obviously, but it's not been business as usual by any means, and this is going to be a healing process for me. It makes you think about a lot of things other than driving race cars, but the one thing that's probably helped me more than anything is being back at the race track and being around my racing family and remembering that I have a passion for what I do. So that's probably helped me more than anything when it's come to trying to make that next step to move forward. Q. If you could do anything differently over the past couple months, what would it be? TONY STEWART: I'd have stayed at Watkins Glen that night. You know, I do this stuff and I go run those cars to have a good time and that's all I wanted to do that night. I wanted to go have fun. I had just spent the week at Knoxville, and it gives you the edge and desire to want to go race. It wasn't a big paying race for sprint car standards. I just wanted to go run my sprint car for a night. I do it to have fun, and it didn't end up being fun that night. Q. How have you been spending the time since the accident happened, and will your routine change now that you've been exonerated? TONY STEWART: Since we went back to Atlanta, basically, I go from the motorhome to the car, and the car to the trailer, and the trailer back to the car, and that's literally all I've done since I came back. Even after Wednesday here in Charlotte , I haven't left my house. It's just an awkward feeling. I think now I'll start doing some more things. I mean, I've got a lot of friends who have been supportive through this entire thing, and there are a lot of people that have shown how much they cared and it would be nice to go and visit and talk to those people again. Q. Have you reconsidered or considered stopping driving sprint cars as a result of this and your injury the year before? TONY STEWART: At this point I don't really have -- I'm not going to say I'm never going to get in one. But when I got hurt, it was as soon as I got healed and as soon as things got settled in with the Cup car I was set that I was wanting to get in one, but right now I wouldn't even be able to give you a small idea of if and when I'll ever get back in a car. So at this point I won't be in one for a while. Q. The life of a driver and an owner is extremely busy. Press conferences, commercials, appearances, fan things, you haven't done -- have you done much of that? When will you think you'd get back to that life? TONY STEWART : I haven't done any since the accident. I think after talking with you guys today we'll start getting back into doing meet and greets and appearances again. I think it's important for me to do that and to take -- I think that's another step of making forward progress is getting back to trying to resume what was the best of a normal life before this. I think it's important for me to do that and get back to doing it as soon as possible. Q. What has been the biggest change within you and the biggest impact upon you as a result of this past month and a half? TONY STEWART: I honestly think that when you're -- and I'm not going to speak for professional athletes in different forms of sports, but as a race car driver, driving a race car is all that consumed my life. It's all I thought about, it's all I cared about, and everything else was second on down the list of priorities for me. I think this has given me the opportunity to sit here and think about other aspects of my life and what they're going to mean to me in the future. Not that I don't love what I do, because I do love it, but it's not -- just like you guys, it's not what we do all the time. There are more things to our life than what we have as a profession. So it's made me think about some of those other aspects of my life that kind of have been put on hold for years. Q. How would you characterize the weeks at home, Tony, following the accident? You basically were in seclusion. What was that like for you to go through that and what did you do? TONY STEWART: I didn't really do much of anything to be perfectly honest. I think the first three days that I was home I really didn't do anything. I didn't get out of bed. I didn't care if I took a shower. I left my room to go get food , and that you almost had to make yourself eat. It's the first three or four days I didn't want to talk to anybody. Didn't want to see anybody, I just wanted to be by myself. You finally get up and you finally start moving around a little bit and every day got a little bit easier, but it was a big, drastic change from what I was used to, for sure, not having the desire to do anything. All you thought about is what happened and asking yourself why. Why did this happen? So you just sat there for entire days on end asking questions and trying to come to terms with what happened and why it happened. Q. I was at Loudon a couple weeks ago and Jimmie Johnson talked about how people are starting to take sides, and I'm wondering during this process if things coming out on Twitter or people making comments in the media, did you keep yourself insulated from that or did you follow any of that? How did that impact the time that you were at the track? TONY STEWART: I tried to do my best to insulate myself from that. But I finally started reading what was out there and what people were saying, and you didn't control that. Last Wednesday the facts came out and people still through the weekend, some people that had the same opinion before the facts came out still have the same opinion, no matter what side they think about. To me it's worthless to pick sides. A young man lost his life, and I don't care what side you're on, it doesn't change that. His family's in mourning. I'm in mourning. My family is in mourning. Picking sides isn't solving or fixing anything. It's a waste of time to pick sides. Instead of honoring a young man that had a promising racing career, people are picking sides and throwing -- it's like watching people throw darts at each other. It's disappointing at this point, honestly, because instead of supporting each other and the racing community is such a strong family, that it's dividing people that on a daily basis would help each other. There is no point in it. It doesn't solve anything. It doesn't fix anything. At the end of the day, it's not going to make anybody feel any better about it. It's just people that -- everybody's entitled to their opinion, and we know that. But everybody, and I've seen this for the last seven weeks now, everybody has made their decision and picked their side off of 100 percent of the information that they got, which is about 10 percent of all the information that's truly out there. And we all do it. Our society does it. We do it every day. Whatever we see on the news we make our decision as people about what we see. But it's not -- I don't think any of us any day whatever topic we're trying to come to a conclusion about, ever get all the facts. So you understand why people think the way they do, but I think more than not, I don't think people realize that there is more information out there than what we all get on a daily basis about whatever it is. Q. (No Microphone)? TONY STEWART : I guess it was more disappointing to me than anything. Even from people that were supportive of us. I mean, listened and reading comments about the sheriff's department and the district attorney, they did a good job of taking the time that they needed to do to get all the facts and to come to a very thought out conclusion of this. You want to sit there and tell people, hey, let them do their job. But it just shows how passionate people are. I mean, if they are on our side or on Kevin's family's side, they were passionate about that. That's something I don't want to see go away. I don't want to see people lose their passion, but I think people need to understand that there are a lot more facts that they didn't understand and haven't seen. Q. Tony, obviously the season is moving on. Yesterday Kevin Harvick , great run, Kurt Busch , not as great. How much have you let yourself be engaged in that side of the process right now as far as being the Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing? TONY STEWART: I've let my team down from that standpoint. I haven't been able to -- I've been a little bit of a cheerleader, but that's about all I've been able to contribute here the last seven weeks. It's just, like I mentioned earlier, it's been hard for me to function day-to-day. There hasn't been anything normal about my life the last seven weeks, so it's been very hard to try to do anything to be productive to help those guys. You try to be a cheerleader, you try to keep them pumped up about what they're do being, but other than that, I haven't been able to contribute too much. Q. Just wondering, you talk about being in seclusion and all that that's meant. What does today represent for you having us all here? You called us all here together. What does today represent for you in terms of going forward? TONY STEWART: We knew everybody had questions and we knew that everybody was going to want answered to what's going on. But I think more than anything we wanted to be able to tell everything from the beginning. But it's, like I learned Wednesday, everybody's got their opinions about what happened. Obviously, the facts didn't matter to a lot of those people. They still had their opinions one way or the other. We haven't let anybody know what's been going on the last six weeks. We just kind of went through the motions as far as we're concerned, and we knew a lot of you would have questions about what's been going on the last six or seven weeks and how have we handled it. Q. What was it like to learn from the district attorney that in the toxicology report, Kevin Ward was under the influence? TONY STEWART: Honestly, for me, it didn't change anything. To me a young driver lost his life. Didn't matter why or what was going on. The end result was the same. No matter what was said, it was still a tragic accident. I just know in my heart that it was a hundred percent an accident; that detail didn't mean anything to me personally. Q. You mentioned earlier the awkward feeling that's come over you the past several weeks. Can you explain that a little more? Also, talk about will that ever go away given that Kevin Ward has passed away and that will not change? TONY STEWART: It's just been awkward because I know what a typical day was like for me and the things that were on my agenda for each day and what I thought about you kind of get in that pattern. This was something that obviously changed that pattern drastically. Everything you thought about, everything you worked on, you stop thinking about. You stopped working on, and this is all you thought about. Ask me the second part again. Q. Do you think that will eventually go away? TONY STEWART: I think it will. The reason I say that is I've had other people that I've known for years that have come to me and told me personal stories of tragedies that have happened in their life that a lot of us don't know about. Their experiences and their advice really has hit home for me. I do believe as time goes on it will be different every day. It may. I don't know if it will ever get back to normal, but it will get better. Q. Since getting back in a car, rate your performance as a driver? TONY STEWART: I could rate a before and after almost the same. My year hasn't been a stellar year by any means. When we came back, we had a decent day started in Atlanta, and had an incident that derailed it. But I think yesterday was probably the best overall race from start to finish that we've run. Probably one of the best ones this year that we've actually run. I struggled on restarts. I couldn't get going very good the first three or four laps, but it seemed like after 10 laps or 15 laps we were settling into a pace that was a top-5 race car. So we didn't have any major dramas on either side during the whole race. We actually put a whole race together. I know the 14th- or 15th-place finish isn't anything to brag about, but considering where our season has been, we finally put together a whole day that was consistent, and that meant a lot to us. Q. Tony, it's kind of a follow-up, Doug asked you about your NASCAR involvement with Stewart-Haas Racing. Your short track industry, your empire with Eldora and your USAC teams, and the World of Outlaw teams, what's that been like for you over the last seven weeks? TONY STEWART: I've watched and paid attention to what was going on, but I haven't been engaged in it. I've watched our races that we had online at Eldora. I've watched the sprint car races online and listened to them online, but haven't been engaged with the teams, haven't been engaged with the drivers. Just kind of been an non-deal. Q. I don't know quite how to phrase this, but racing inherently is a dangerous sport. You've seen guys get killed in accidents over the years. If this would have been a situation where you guys were racing and he crashed, and he perished in the crash, would it be something you would feel different about? Or does the nature of him coming out on the track, did that change at all for you? Does that make sense? TONY STEWART : Yeah, it does. For me, I don't think it would change anything. I've worked really hard, especially when I got hurt last year, while I was healing, I spent all that time trying to defend sprint car racing and help -- try to help other drivers through the off-season. I do it because I'm passionate about it and I love it. We all know what can happen every time we get in a race car, whether it's an IndyCar, stock car, sprint car. Anybody that races anything knows what that is and what that danger is and what can happen. I've had close friends die in race cars. I've had teammates die in race cars, and there is nothing easy about it. Like I said, the racing community is a very close-knit family. Anytime you lose somebody in that family, there are drivers and team owners and crew members from other sports that may not have ever met that driver but feel for that family and that driver in their tragedy. So no matter what the circumstances, the end result is something that nobody ever wants to see. Like I said, I've spent a lot of time trying to defend it and try to help promote the sport, and none of us want that to happen to anybody under any circumstances. Q. This is a secondary thing, but it will be important if it hasn't been already, how are you dealing with sponsors? How are you talking to sponsors about moving forward and what kind of concerns do you have about them being loyal to the team after this? TONY STEWART: It's a legitimate question, for sure. Our organization has stayed in close contact with the sponsors through this whole ordeal, and I've been able to talk to a couple of them as well. Johnny Morris was one of the people that came to my house to see me while I was in Indiana. We spoke to people from Mobil 1, and they came to see us the last couple weeks at the race track. The support from them has been amazing. It's obviously a tough circumstance for anybody to be a part of it, for a corporation to be part of it as well, but they've been very supportive through this whole process. I can't speak to what the future will be for them. They've been supportive to this point and that's something I've been very grateful for. Q. First of all, welcome back. Glad to see you. Following up a little on what Steven said. You own sprint car teams and own tracks and specifically Eldora. It was almost a therapy for you to get to go up and ride around on a four-wheeler and get the shoes dirty and the hands dirty. Has this incident taken away from the cleansing properties of that therapy? Do you think you'll ever be able to ride Eldora in the four-wheeler and feel the same again? TONY STEWART: I'm sure I will. It's just not right now. That's an important aspect of my life and something that's very important to me. Right now at this moment today there are other things that are important to me right now, and they still are. But I'm not ready to go do that yet. Going around in a Cup car right now is important to me, and the great thing Eldora and the dirt track teams and our drivers that do great things there, and that's given me -- afforded me the time to think about what I need to do right now. Q. You talked briefly about your race yesterday. It's been the best race you've had in your five back. Is there any correlation personally in how you performed yesterday to being able to move forward in the decision Wednesday? TONY STEWART: I really don't know if it does or not, to be honest. Honestly, at the race track on Friday and Saturday we struggled. Our qualifying effort was the best that I qualified at Dover in a long time, but we really struggled in practice leading up to that, and Saturday all day we struggled. I thought Chad and the engineers did a good job Saturday night of taking all the information they learned on both days, and I could tell right off the bat on Sunday that the car was quite a bit different than the rest of the weekend. I don't think it had anything to do with that, honestly. I think getting back in the car every time I've gotten in there, it's given me a chance to focus again, and that's something that I've needed as a diversion. But I think from the time that I went back to Atlanta, the first session there the car felt really good, and we had a good weekend in Atlanta until it got derailed. But I think at this point in my career as a driver, when you make that decision to put the helmet on you have to know in your heart that you're ready to go, you're ready to do it, and I felt comfortable in the car from Day 1. Q. You're a championship level driver on the track, and sort of a larger-than-life figure off of it, which is responsible for all of this. Can you get back to that person that you were, that gregarious, likeable sort of guy, or is it going to be a while that you're that personality that fans have been drawn to all these years? TONY STEWART: I think the support we've had from our fans, I don't know if they even care if we get back to that. They're just happy that we're back right now, and that's been very comforting for us and for me. I've really appreciated their support and how they've helped welcome me back to the track. It's hard to say to be honest. I appreciate the fact that you said I was a nice guy. This is a process that's day-to-day. You take it one day at a time. Before the accident happened, a day would fly by , and now a day seems like two or three days. The clock seems like the batteries are running low on the clock. I honestly think every day things will get better, and things will get easier, and I think it will for Kevin's family as well. Time heals. Like I said, I don't know that it will ever be normal again, but we'll find a place to settle into and we'll do the best we can like we have to this point. Whether I ever get back to that or not, hopefully through this I will somehow be a better person. That's all I can hope for. Q. Until last Wednesday, there was the very real possi