Bruce: Never count 'Smoke' out, but he needs a win RELATED: Chase-clinching scenarios for Pocono It's been three years since Tony Stewart qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And it's beginning to look as if the three-time series champion might miss this year's field of 16 as well. Stewart , 44, is 26th in points heading into this weekend's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway. With only six races remaining before the field is set, it's unlikely that the co-owner/driver at Stewart -Haas Racing will qualify for one of the 16 positions based on points. To earn a chance to compete for this year's championship, Stewart needs nothing less than a victory in the coming weeks. Defending series champion Kevin Harvick , six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , '04 champ Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have officially clinched Chase berths. Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Brad Keselowski , Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are 2015 race winners and are currently 16th or higher in the points standings. Kyle Busch , riding a white-hot streak that has seen the Joe Gibbs Racing driver win three consecutive Sprint Cup events, and four of the last five, is on the doorstep of the top 30 in points (another Chase eligibility requirement). Non-winners, but those somewhat safely inside the top 16 in points include Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon . On less stable ground are Ryan Newman , Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne , currently 12th through 14th, respectively, in points. Unless he can advance his points position, Clint Bowyer , who sits 15th, would fall outside the Chase as soon as Kyle Busch cracks the top 30. Stewart is trying to climb into contention. Those on the periphery are likewise trying to advance -- or hold on -- to what they've earned thus far. A win in the coming weeks by anyone else, AJ Allmendinger (23rd) at Watkins Glen for example, would trump the points position of a non-winner inside the top 16. It's unlikely that someone such as Kahne, Menard or Bowyer is resting too comfortably these days. Kahne has made three consecutive appearances in the Chase, but isn't taking anything for granted; Menard's still chasing that first playoff opportunity; Bowyer, meanwhile, is attempting to return after missing the field a year ago. Aric Almirola (17th) and Greg Biffle (18th) made last year's Chase. Austin Dillon (19th) and Kyle Larson (20th) are still looking for that first career win and first Chase appearance. Would it be unwise to look past any of those drivers given the uncertain nature of racing? Rules package changes and a variety of tracks -- large, small and a road course to boot -- only serve to muddy the racing waters. Stewart's Chase absence has been well documented. A broken leg in 2013 sidelined the No. 14 driver for the season's final 15 races. A year ago, he missed three races prior to the start of the Chase, and while he was given a NASCAR exemption, Stewart failed to produce the necessary win or points position to qualify. Perhaps it would be just as unwise to look past Stewart , given what he has been able to accomplish in previous years. But the road ahead won't be an easy one for him or any of those looking to go from Chase hopeful to Chase qualifier. The calendar is starting to take an ugly turn. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After Daytona accident, 'Smoke' first on scene to check on 'Rowdy' INDIANAPOLIS -- A day after suffering a broken right leg and left foot in a Feb. 21 crash at Daytona International Speedway, Kyle Busch had his first hospital visitor. It was Tony Stewart , who had been sidelined in August 2013 by a sprint car accident that had caused a compound fracture of his right leg. As Busch's mind raced through possible dire consequences of his injuries, Stewart was there to offer support and counsel. " Tony was actually the first one to the hospital," Busch said on Saturday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at The Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). "As soon as the Daytona 500 was over, he was there. He actually told everybody that was on his plane that they were going to wait. He was there for about four hours. We had a good talk. "We had a good discussion about just what it was like and the process that he had to go through and how long it was probably going to be or what it was going to be. In all reality, our injuries were the same but entirely different. His was much more severe than mine. Just being able to talk with him, my mind-set was OK." Stewart helped allay Busch’s fears that his injury might be career-ending. "At first I was like, 'I'm never going to race again, and I don’t know what I’m going to do' -- all those things go through your mind," Busch said. "You just continue to power through and listen to your doctors and those that are around you and, of course, my wife and the support system that I had. "I wouldn't call it painless. There was certainly a lot of pain, but it went really, really well as far as you could say any injury healing goes. I was pretty pleased with everything." If recent results are any indication, Busch has returned stronger than ever. He has won three of the last four Sprint Cup events, at Sonoma, Kentucky and New Hampshire. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
An in-depth profile of the most dynamic and diverse team in NASCAR. Featuring interviews with the drivers of Stewart -Haas Racing; Tony Stewart , Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick. Check it out on August 1st at 2:30 pm ET on Fox Sports 1.
The unmistakable roar from the crowd was loud enough to easily hear over the 700-horsepower engine as the car blasted down the front stretch and across the start/finish line. The cheers were the familiar head-turning jolt of loud adoration Dale Earnhardt Jr . is accustomed to receiving at Talladega every single time he moves to the lead in a race. But this thunderous applause was in Indianapolis. And this was Tony Stewart in the car. NASCAR's "champion of the people" had arguably just reeled off his best single lap of the 2015 season, putting his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet at the very top of Indy's famous scoring pylon for the first round of qualifying for the Brickyard 400 two weeks ago. And as Indiana's favorite native-born son climbed out of his car, he couldn't help but be touched by the overwhelming reception. A grin spread across his face and he waved to the grandstands acknowledging the love and loyalty. "That is huge,"' Stewart said of the crowd reaction. "Like I say, when you come home that is what you want. They play as big of a part in this as anything when it comes to keeping your morale up." "I have said all year that (performance on track) could change in a week and it doesn't even mean that after this weekend it's not going to go back to where it has been," Stewart , 44, added jokingly. "It could go and be a natural disaster tomorrow. It could all be for nothing." And indeed, while Stewart's final round qualifying session ultimately put him fourth on the grid -- his best start of the year -- the two-time Indy winner finished 28th at Indy. Last week at Pocono, he was better able to take advantage of a top-10 qualifying effort (sixth) and finished ninth, but it was only his second top-10 effort in 21 races this season. Stewart heads into Watkins Glen this week as the road course's all-time winningest NASCAR driver (five victories) but still needing a win in the next five races to qualify for his first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs since 2012. It's been a rough and emotional past two years for the three-time Cup champ, who has endured and persevered through serious injury, heartache and substandard results. Stewart was involved in an on-track fatality when fellow competitor Kevin Ward Jr. exited his car, approached Stewart's car during caution laps, was struck and died later from his injuries. Stewart missed three races but was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. Since then, his performance on the track has included three top-10 finishes in 33 Sprint Cup races. However, the immense and intense faith of Stewart's fans has never faltered. "It seems like more people are rallying behind him than ever before actually," said 33-year-old James Groff, who showed up at a Bass Pro Shops grand opening outside Tampa, Florida, last week in hopes of getting Stewart's autograph, shaking his hand and most importantly, to remind his racing hero that a whole lot of people support him. "He's going through some rough times, but he'll get back to being the Tony he was. A broken leg, then that other sprint car accident, I'm sure it takes a toll. But he's a great driver and that's what it comes down to." Thousands of people showed up at the Bass Pro Shops store that Stewart was set to help christen for his longtime sponsor. And there were countless dressed in Stewart's racing T-shirts and hats. Grown men acted giddy taking a photo in front of one of Stewart's show cars. Women giggled at the thought of a hug and photo from Stewart and young kids carried die-cast replica cars for him to sign. "You gotta root for him, everyone has a bad year or so, but a true fan is a true fan," said Jason Mock, 32, of Wesley Chapel, Florida, who brought his 10- and 12-year-old daughters and 6-year-old son to meet their favorite driver. Asked why she was willing to come out on a rainy weekday night and brave the crowd to meet Stewart , 13-year-old Haylee Gulino explained with a smile. "I'm a Tony fan. My dad is too so I was raised that way.'' Unfortunately, Stewart wasn't able to attend the event because he was suffering from a severe migraine. But while he was home nursing a headache, had he been in Florida, his heart would have surely been healing. Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris is among Stewart's loyal legions. His company has been a longtime sponsor of Stewart and his Stewart -Haas Racing team. Beyond that, Morris has developed a close friendship with the driver. And while things have been challenging for Stewart over the last couple years, Morris' support and confidence has never wavered. "Without any question," Morris said. "What are friends for? A friend in need is a friend indeed, as they say. I have a lot of admiration for Tony , his passion to give back to the sport he loves. Tony has been a steadfast friend of ours, too. People see part of a high-profile celebrity -- whether it be Tony racing or an entertainer -- and I feel privileged to have gotten to know Tony behind-the-scenes and seen what a compassionate, down-to-earth person he is." Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage has also witnessed first-hand the " Stewart Effect." Each December for most of the past decade, Gossage gets a telephone call "out of the blue" from the champ, not a SHR team representative or one of Stewart's assistants, but Stewart himself ready to schedule the next year's version of his "Smoke Show" fundraiser at the track. "Who does that?" said Gossage, explaining that Stewart's two-day event -- which will be held this week -- has raised more than $1 million for Speedway Children's Charities. "No other driver calls to just say, 'How can I help you? What's going on? What can I do?' " "The most precious thing any driver has to offer is time. They can give you money, memorabilia to auction off, any number of things, but the thing they have the least of is time because of their schedules, professional and personal life. "This is nine years now we've done the Smoke Show and it all came about from a casual conversation we were having and he said, 'I'll do that.' " And he has in the only way Stewart knows how. He's all in, a trait that has made him one of the most successful race car drivers of his generation and endeared him to one of the largest fan bases of any professional athlete. Gossage describes The Smoke Show as a "bucket list thing to do" for some of the super fans, willing and able to donate big bucks for a day-and-a-half to get up close and personal with Stewart . They have dinner with the champion and then the following day take a driving school type course getting tips from Stewart throughout. He gives the participants thrill rides -- at speed -- with him around the 1.5-mile speedway and celebrates with them in a mock Victory Lane complete with the cowboy hat, six-shooters and confetti used during the Texas Motor Speedway's two Sprint Cup Series race weekends. Even fan applause is piped in. "The cool thing is Tony gets to know every one of them and assigns them a nickname and he'll bust their chops all day long, and they love him,'' Gossage said. "He sits in that hot race car all day with sweat running off his nose and never unstraps from that race car until he's done. He's in it for hours and hours giving rides. He honestly is out there sweating his butt off for charity. I don't know anyone else that will do that. "What makes him different is the fire that burns inside him. That's what makes champions out of some athletes where others just have skills. He's got both. It's what's inside them. People may not fully understand he's the most sensitive tough guy I've ever met in my life. And I'm certain what's happened has had a lifelong impact on him. "What fans love about him is they think, 'He's just like me, a hard-working blue-collar regular guy except he got a break and got into one of those race cars.' "He's the 'every man' out on the race track."
Complete news and notes on all 43 cars in the Windows 10 400 RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid Breaking down how the full 43-car field fared at Pocono Raceway. 1. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth was 16 seconds behind leader Kyle Busch in the closing laps, but the driver of the No. 20 saved enough fuel to pass his teammate and coast to his first Pocono win. 2. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . "Sorry about that, guys. Everybody OK?" Keselowski asked his team after he locked up his brakes, slid through his pit box and hit two crew members during his Lap 58 green-flag stop. He rallied to score his fifth top five of the year. 3. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Gordon matched his best 2015 finish when his Pocono finale became a fuel-mileage race and he climbed from 16th. 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Earnhardt and his team battled through a variety of issues -- a pit road penalty and mid-race spin among them -- to be in the right place and climb from 17th to fourth in the final 10 laps as the leaders ran out of fuel. 5. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle recorded his second top-five of the year thanks to -- you guessed it -- fuel mileage. He also led Laps 125-126 during green-flag stops and kept working with his team to find grip. 6. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson was forced to pit for fuel with three laps to go and climbed through the field to earn his 14th top-10 as competitors faded. 7. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . A missed shift triggered a vibration for Allmendinger, who worked through the issue to score his third top-10 of the year. 8. Clint Bowyer , No. 15, Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Bowyer started saving fuel while running 11th with 18 laps to go. 9. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart -Haas Racing . It was a solid day for Stewart , who started fifth before recording just his second top-10 this season. 10. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards was running ninth in the closing laps when he hit pit road for a quick splash of fuel. 11. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard spent the majority of Sunday’s race running inside the top 15 and saved one lap of fuel to make it to the end. 12. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Fuel mileage wasn’t on Larson’s side, but he was still pleased with the effort and later tweeted, "Best car we’ve had all year though and pit crew did an awesome job all day." 13. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . With crew chief Slugger Labbe at the helm, Dillon posted his best Pocono result. 14. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. Cassill ran as high as second en route to his best career Pocono showing. 15. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet. Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray said Pocono was slicker this weekend than it was in June and he spent the race chasing the handling of his car. 16. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart -Haas Racing . Patrick had a mid-race scare when a piece of trash adhered itself to her car’s grille and caused her temperatures to spike. 17. David Ragan , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Ragan improved to run 10th, but ran out of fuel in the final laps and coasted across the finish line. 18. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola reported a throttle issue during the first half of Sunday’s race, but appeared to have the right amount of fuel to make it to the end. 19. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex was running second in the final laps and had to hit pit road for a quick splash to finish the race. A pit road speeding penalty incurred during the stop damaged his forward progress. 20. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano led a race-high 97 laps and was cruising toward his second win of the year when his car ran out of fuel with three laps to go. He then picked up a speeding penalty while refueling. 21. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The pole sitter focused on fuel conservation and took over the race lead briefly before sputtering out himself with two laps to go. 22. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin focused on crisp shifts as he nursed a gearbox issue and maintained his position inside the top 10 until he also ran out of fuel. 23. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman was running 16th when he ran out of fuel in the closing laps. 24. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier was having a solid day, running inside the top 15, when he pitted just prior to the Lap 92 caution flag and lost track position. 25. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Bowman improved upon his best Pocono outing after a solid effort on Sunday. 26. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett’s car started tight and then snapped to loose as Sunday’s race unfolded. 27. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Whitt struggled to find consistency in his car and sustained damage while running in the pack. 28. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears restarted 13th after picking up eight spots on pit road during the final caution. Subsequently, he reported that his car was plowing through the corners. 29. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto stayed out of trouble to post his best Pocono finish. 30. J.J. Yeley, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Yeley was awarded the Lucky Dog pass on the seventh caution period, but struggled to capture any momentum. 31. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . On Lap 27, Moffitt made contact with teammate David Gilliland and sustained a significant tire rub. 32. Travis Kvapil , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing. Kvapil held steady to improve upon his most recent Pocono performance. 33. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . During late-race green-flag stops, Gilliland’s team tried to get the front end of the car down after earlier contact elevated his splitter. 34. Reed Sorenson , No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Sorenson was the Lucky Dog three times in a row, but struggled to find a rhythm and stay on the lead lap. 35. Jeb Burton , No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . "They’re lucky no one was pitting that time," Burton radioed his team after Kahne’s early-race crash on pit road brought out the red flag. "They’ve gotten lucky twice. Something needs to change." Burton was in a similar incident during Saturday’s final practice session. 36. Timmy Hill , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Hill recorded his best 2015 result in his third Cup event. 37. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart -Haas Racing . Busch was inadvertently turned by Paul Menard in Turn 1 and then nailed by Sam Hornish Jr . 38. Alex Kennedy , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport . Kennedy spun on Lap 92 to bring out the eighth caution flag. 39. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Hornish missed a shift early in the race, which caused a world of hurt for him and others navigating the Tricky Triangle. 40. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne’s best Pocono start was stalled just past the midway point when a wayward tail pipe went through the radiator of his car. 41. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenouse braked hard but couldn’t avoid crashing into the back of a slowing Sam Hornish Jr . in Turn 1 on Lap 28. 42. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart -Haas Racing . The outside pole sitter opted to stay on track during the competition caution and blew up after leading the field to green on Lap 17. 43. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne got loose on Lap 5 coming off Turn 3 and slammed into the pit road wall, sending helmets flying and pit crew personnel scurrying. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Pit strategy pays off for No. 24 team, puts Gordon 10th in points RELATED: Updated Chase Grid standings " Complete results from Pocono LONG POND, Pa.-- Four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon ended his Pocono Raceway career with a record-tying 20th top-five finish in his 46th start at the track. After sitting 16th with 10 laps to go, no one was more shocked than Gordon when he crossed the start/finish line bearing his name in third place as several cars on differing pit strategies ran out of fuel before the end. "Well, it would be a long, long list if we talked to a bunch of people in the grandstands and myself, and everybody on pit road and probably people watching at home to find out who was more surprised," Gordon said. "That was crazy." As he attempted to extend his track record win total to seven while also earning a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth, Gordon's team stayed out under the Lap 17 competition caution and climbed to second following a 10th-place qualifying effort. But five more cautions in the first half of the race found the No. 24 car in 16th at the midway mark. Gordon moved up to sixth place 10 laps later, but the seventh and final caution at Lap 93 dropped him outside of the top 15 again. "I'm not exactly sure where I started on that first restart but it was like 15th, 16th and I can't say I passed many cars," Gordon said. "We just kind of hovered around that area, wasn't real pleased with how our car was in traffic, and when we were up front we were pretty good, felt like we were a top-five car," Gordon said, echoing the comments of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who finished fourth. "But we played the fuel‑mileage strategy pretty early on and that lost us track position and we weren't able to climb our way up through there," Gordon continued. "And we continued to play that strategy and I'm proud of Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) for sticking with it. There at the end, we were one of the last ones to pit, which allowed us to run hard all the way to the finish, not having to conserve or save fuel." During the race, though, the strategy didn't inspire confidence in the driver, who never thought he would have earned a top-five finish or even his 32nd top-10 result, second-best to Mark Martin 's 34. "The script I had played out in my head was we were going to be 15th, so this one was way better than that," Gordon said. "For whatever reason, the last couple times we've been here, we've had decent race cars, not maybe the cars that we would have liked to have had, but cars far capable of better finishes than what we've had, have been getting, and just a lot of different circumstances not playing out. Some to our own credit and others just circumstances. "Today finally one went our way for a change, which is really nice to bounce back after last week's unfortunate incident where we lost so many points." Following a 42nd-place finish at Indianapolis, Gordon dropped to 11th place in the points standings. He bounced back to 10th after Pocono, encouraging Gordon in his quest to make the playoffs -- with five races until the start of the Chase -- and his hopes to make his drive for five championships. MORE: Gordon wrecks in final Indy appearance "As a team, even though we're not performing to the level we want to, we are performing well enough to make it into the Chase," Gordon said. "If you knew that you were going to finish between 10th and 15th every week here going forward, but just like what happened last week, you can't afford to have many 42nd-place finishes. That could be disastrous. There are no guarantees, and so you've got to gain all the points you can when you have the opportunity. We had that opportunity today; we did it." The series heads to Watkins Glen next Sunday for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), and Gordon believes he has a shot at tying Tony Stewart 's record of five wins on the road course after a stout effort in 2014 that found him racing road-course ace Marcos Ambrose for the lead until a mechanical failure dropped him to a 34th-place finish. "The one thing that's encouraging to me is last year I thought we were really strong there, and we had ... some kind of battery connection issue and we lost power, so we never saw it play out. That happened ‑‑ I think we were running second to Ambrose at the time. I'm encouraged by that. I'm looking forward to going back there. I know our aero package is a little bit different, but you know, I don't think it's that much different from what we had last year, so hopefully we can have another strong finish and performance there. That would be awesome. "We need them -- right now every race is so critical for us. We can't afford to have finishes like we had last week at Indy, and so we're going to have to attack and be on -- just marching forward to be aggressive to try to get those good points and finishes and hopefully a win." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
'Smoke' after the emotional win: 'Today's been my entire life' Tony Stewart knew what the fans wanted. The Columbus, Indiana, native had just crossed the start-finish line to win the coveted 2005 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his first win at his hometown track. A roar from full grandstands greeted him, chanting " Tony ! Tony !" in unison. And after a day like today, a jubilant Stewart wasn't one to disappoint. Following his victory lap around the storied race track, Stewart stopped just short of the flag stand where the iconic bricks lay, climbed out of his No. 20 Chevrolet and strode over to the catch fence. Then, "Smoke" -- along with his crew -- began to climb the catch fence, joining the fans in a long-awaited celebration. "I wish I could put into words," an exhausted but excited Stewart said after his fence climb, as he lay on the front stretch wall. "Today's been my entire life." Indianapolis was one of the races Stewart had circled on his schedule for quite some time. Not only was it his hometown track, but it was also a track where his hero -- driver A.J. Foyt -- had dominated with four Indianapolis 500 wins. Stewart's 2005 win at Indianapolis put him further ahead in the championship point standings and ultimately led to him earning the 2005 Cup championship. PHOTOS: See Cup drivers kiss the bricks But that would come later in the season. On that August day in 2005, it was all about Stewart , Indianapolis and a famous line of bricks.
Entering New Hampshire, three-time champion currently sits 28th in points While it seems as if everyone else has been on Tony Stewart retirement watch, Tony Stewart has been on "What the hell can we do to get better?" watch. Halfway through the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Stewart , 44, has yet to score his first top-five finish. He has a single top 10. And he's 28th in points as the series prepares to head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Sunday's 5-hour ENERGY 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM). His past two seasons have been abbreviated. Stewart suffered a broken leg in '13 and missed the final 15 races; last year his involvement in an on-track fatality left him sidelined for three races. This year brought a new rules package featuring lower downforce and less horsepower, changes to which admits he has yet to adapt. So while some wonder just how much longer he will continue to compete, Stewart says he is much more concerned with how he can get back to the form that saw him win three series titles (2002, '05, '11) and 48 races. "Right now I'm just trying to figure out how to get my car working, to be honest with you," Stewart said during a national teleconference on Tuesday when asked about career longevity. "To me, I don't care how we get there. I don't care if it takes one week or if it takes six weeks to get there, the main thing is just getting there. "We're going to keep working hard and keep pushing to try to find that. With the way this (Chase) format is … all it takes is one good race for us to get in. If we can find whatever it is that we've been missing … one race can change our whole season. That's the driving force every week." Stewart has won at least one race on 21 of the 23 tracks currently hosting Sprint Cup events, a mark surpassed only by four-time series champ Jeff Gordon . His wins are spread out among the various venues -- at times he's been as strong on the 1.5-mile tracks as on the road courses. He's a five-time winner on the restrictor-plate tracks, and many of his victories been earned on short tracks. He hasn't won, however, in his last 59 starts, last visiting victory lane at Dover International Speedway in June of 2013 while paired with crew chief Steve Addington. Chad Johnston has been calling the shots for the Stewart -Haas Racing No. 14 team since the start of 2014. Stewart still believes in his crew chief. "I don't feel like he's what's holding us back," he said. "There's something about the way this package is that just doesn't suit my driving style. It's a scenario that when you drive for so long, you're used to one thing … coming into this year and taking the amount of horsepower they took out was a pretty radical change for the Cup Series. "I think it was more the horsepower reduction than it was anything that I feel like has hurt me this year. I've grown up driving high‑horsepower cars, high power‑to‑weight ratio cars. This hasn't been what I'm used to feeling." RELATED: Drivers give package rave reviews Because he hasn't found that balance and feel for which he is searching, Stewart said it would be unwise to look to him for an opinion on NASCAR's latest rules change, a lower downforce package used this past weekend at Kentucky Speedway. A version of the package will also be used later this year at Darlington Raceway. As an owner ( Stewart is co-owner of SHR), any changes that, "put better races on is in all of our best interests," he said. "The part that's hard for the teams is the process … changing this, changing that. All that cost comes out of our pockets. It doesn't come out of NASCAR's pocket. NASCAR decides they want to change something (and) we're the ones that have to spend the money to do it. "I think all of the owners will do whatever's in the best interest of making it better. I just would like to see NASCAR share some of that expense versus saying, 'Hey, we got an idea, we want to try this,' then the teams have to spend all the money to do it." For now, though, Stewart has more pressing concerns. "I feel like every weekend, it's the weekend we're going to find it," he said. "It's disheartening, takes the wind out of your sails when you realize you haven't found it that week. … "It's not strictly about a win. If we get our car working and win a race because we have our car working well, it definitely can turn the season around. With this format, it can change everything. "That's your reason not to give up. That's your reason to keep fighting every week and show up at the track with the same attitude you did the week before. You can go out there, win the race, (and) get everything going." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After Race 21 of the 2015 season at Pocono Raceway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Attempts 1 Tony Stewart 4 780 -- -- 1 0 21 2 Walter Czarnecki 22 734 -46 -46 2 0 21 3 Rick Hendrick 88 717 -63 -17 4 1 21 4 Jeff Gordon 48 713 -67 -4 5 1 21 5 Gene Haas 41 703 -77 -10 3 -2 21 6 Barney Visser 78 694 -86 -9 6 0 21 7 Roger Penske 2 681 -99 -13 7 0 21 8 Joe Gibbs 20 662 -118 -19 8 0 21 9 Felix Sabates 1 631 -149 -31 9 0 21 10 Rick Hendrick 24 617 -163 -14 11 1 21 11 J D Gibbs 11 614 -166 -3 10 -1 21 12 Richard Childress 27 591 -189 -23 13 1 21 13 Richard Childress 31 584 -196 -7 12 -1 21 14 Rob Kauffman 15 574 -206 -10 15 1 21 15 Linda Hendrick 5 559 -221 -15 14 -1 21 16 J D Gibbs 19 553 -227 -6 17 1 21 17 Joe Gibbs 18 546 -234 -7 16 -1 21 18 Richard Petty 43 534 -246 -12 18 0 21 19 Chip Ganassi 42 513 -267 -21 19 0 21 20 Jack Roush 16 502 -278 -11 20 0 21 21 Richard Childress 3 484 -296 -18 21 0 21 22 Bob Germain 13 467 -313 -17 22 0 21 23 Tony Stewart 10 462 -318 -5 23 0 21 24 Tad Geschickter 47 460 -320 -2 24 0 21 25 Margaret Haas 14 417 -363 -43 26 1 21 26 Michael Waltrip 55 406 -374 -11 28 2 21 27 Richard Petty 9 390 -390 -16 25 -2 21 28 John Henry 17 383 -397 -7 27 -1 21 29 John Henry 6 370 -410 -13 29 0 21 30 Harry Scott Jr. 51 337 -443 -33 31 1 21 31 Brad Jenkins 38 331 -449 -6 30 -1 21 32 Bob Jenkins 35 331 -449 0 32 0 21 33 Jerry Freeze 34 307 -473 -24 33 0 21 34 Michael Hillman 40 301 -479 -6 34 0 21 35 Tommy Baldwin 7 264 -516 -37 35 0 21 36 Ron Devine 83 245 -535 -19 37 1 21 37 Joe Falk 33 242 -538 -3 36 -1 21 38 Harry Scott Jr. 46 233 -547 -9 38 0 21 39 Ron Devine 23 192 -588 -41 40 1 21 40 Mike Curb 98 190 -590 -2 39 -1 21 41 Archie St Hilaire 32 172 -608 -18 41 0 21 42 Glen Wood 21 147 -633 -25 42 0 10 43 Bob Leavine 95 124 -656 -23 43 0 12 44 Anthony Marlowe 26 114 -666 -10 44 0 21 45 Rick Hendrick 25 86 -694 -28 45 0 4 46 Jay Robinson 62 83 -697 -3 46 0 21 47 John Cohen 44 12 -768 -71 47 0 4 48 Jay Robinson 66 8 -772 -4 48 0 4 49 Curtis Key Sr. 30 6 -774 -2 49 0 8 50 Robby Benton 129 0 -780 -6 51 1 4 51 Gordon Smith 139 0 -780 0 50 -1 2
Tony Stewart talks about what NASCAR’s new rules package means for teams and the future of the sport.