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
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.
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
'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.
See where drivers will pit for the Windows 10 400 RELATED: Complete lineup at Pocono " See all 43 cars in Sunday's race Pole-sitter Kyle Busch nabbed the pick of pit stalls at Pocono with a fast lap of 178.416 mph in Friday's qualifying. He will service the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the first pit stall, entering Turn 1 of the Tricky Triangle. Sharing the front row at the start for the Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET Friday, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) with Busch is Kevin Harvick , and the No. 4 Stewart -Haas Chevrolet will pit in the second stall, right behind Busch. Joey Logano qualified third and chose pit stall No. 3 for the No. 22 Ford. Richard Childress Racing 's No. 3 driver Austin Dillon will pit in the first pit stall coming onto pit road out of Turn 3. Kurt Busch has an opening in front of the No. 41, which will come in for service at the front of the first set of stalls coming out of Turn 3. Fifth-place qualifier Tony Stewart grabbed the spot in front of Kurt Busch , with a clear rear entry at the back of the second group of pit stalls at Pocono. Starting No. 9 Sunday is the No. 2 driver, Brad Keselowski , who will pit his Team Penske Ford also with a rear opening, choosing the final pit stall in the first block of pits heading into Turn 1. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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
Catch up before Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) What: 42nd annual Windows 10 400 Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania When: Sunday, August 2, 2015 TV/Radio: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Distance: 160 laps (400 miles) Green Flag: 1:46 p.m. ET Pit Road Speed: 55 mph Caution Car Speed: 70 mph Fuel Window: 32 laps Competition caution: Lap 15 (Track was washed Saturday night) On The Front Row ( Full lineup ) 1. Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (178.416 mph) 2. Kevin Harvick , Stewart -Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (178.168 mph) To the rear Jeb Burton , BK Racing No. 26 Toyota (going to backup car) Failed to Qualify None Fastest in Practice ( Full practice results ) First Practice: Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford (176.606 mph) Second Practice: Carl Edwards , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota (175.812 mph) Third Practice: Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (175.240 mph) Bumps be gone Two months ago, drivers complained about bumps in Turn 2 over Pocono's new waterfall entrance. The track paved over the section, and the racers have recognized the work done. " They did a great job repairing or improving the bumps and issues they had over in the Tunnel (Turn) especially on the apron," said an appreciative Dale Earnhardt Jr . But June winner Martin Truex Jr . may have lost an advantage, saying, "A few differences in the race track with the Tunnel Turn being smooth again, I think that certainly makes it a little bit easier on everybody else." Second consecutive sweep? Earnhardt won both races in 2014, and Truex will attempt to become the eighth driver to complete the season sweep at the Tricky Triangle. In addition to the two Juniors, the six other drivers who have achieved the Pocono sweep are Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1985), Tim Richmond (1986), Bobby Labonte (1999), Jimmie Johnson (2004) and Denny Hamlin (2006). Four-Time's last time The all-time wins leader at Pocono, Jeff Gordon , will attempt to make his seventh trip to Richard Petty Victory Lane in his last start at the track. Gordon's last win at the Tricky Triangle came three years ago in this race when he snapped a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for lead. The facility incorporated "GORDON" into the start/finish line, and it has a "Thank you Jeff 24" sign greeting patrons and race teams as they drive out of the track under the Tunnel Turn. Birthday bonanza A win would be an early birthday present for Gordon, who turns 44 next Tuesday, as well as his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, who turns 40 next Wednesday when fellow Hendrick crew chief, Chad Knaus, turns 44 as well. Last year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year winner, Kyle Larson , celebrated his 23rd birthday on Friday, and 38th-place qualifier Jeb Burton will join him at that age next Thursday. A two-time Pocono winner, Kurt Busch , turns 37 next Tuesday. Four in a row Coors Light Pole Award winner Kyle Busch will attempt to become the first driver to win four consecutive Sprint Cup Series races since Jimmie Johnson won four Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in a row in the fall of 2007. Other drivers with wins across a month of consecutive Sundays include NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott , David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough. Others to turn the trick have been Harry Gant, Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin and Billy Wade. If Busch wins, he'll go for five in a row at Watkins Glen and try to become the first driver to accomplish the feat since another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Bobby Allison, did it in 1971. Richard Petty holds the record with 10. Taking the fifth Kyle Busch and Harvick haven't won on five of 23 Sprint Cup Series tracks, and Pocono is one they have in common. In addition to the Tricky Triangle, Harvick is winless at Dover, Kentucky, Sonoma and Texas while Busch hasn't gone to Victory Lane at Charlotte, Homestead-Miami, Kansas and Martinsville. Chevy seeks milestone The Bowtie Brigade has won six consecutive races at the track, and if it wins on Sunday, it will make the 750th victory for the manufacturer. Seventy-six different drivers have won in a Chevy, which has claimed 38 manufacturer titles including the last 12. Gordon boasts the most wins with 92, followed by Johnson with 74, Earnhardt (73), Waltrip (60) and Yarborough (48). Next new winner? Through 20 races, 10 drivers have won their way into the Chase with Kyle Busch on the cusp of making the top 30 and becoming the 11th driver to make the playoffs, leaving five spots with six events until the field is set. Of top 30 drivers without a win in 2015, Larson has the best average finish of eighth. The second-best driver in that group is two-time Pocono winner, Stewart , with a 12.1 average finish. Another former winner, Ryan Newman , is third with a 12.4 average finish. Double-duty dudes JJ Yeley skipped Saturday's practices to head to Iowa and run the XFINITY race. Four drivers competed in Saturday's Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono: Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Harvick and Brad Keselowski . Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Pocono based on races since 2005: 1. Denny Hamlin , 108.3 2. Jimmie Johnson , 106.9 3. Kurt Busch , 105.9 Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet Former Pocono winners in the field Jeff Gordon (6); Denny Hamlin (4); Jimmie Johnson (3); Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards (2); Ryan Newman , Joey Logano , Brad Keselowski , Greg Biffle , Martin Truex Jr . (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Jeb Burton, Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were involved in a spin just a few laps after after a restart at Kentucky Speedway.
Edwards, Busch fastest among "Tricky Triangle" competitors RELATED: Practice 3 results " Sunday's Pocono starting lineup Kyle Busch slapped the right side wall hard midway through the final Sprint Cup Series practice session at Pocono Raceway on Saturday. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver brought his No. 18 Toyota back to the garage for major damage fixes. After the repairs, his team sent the Coors Light Pole Award winner back out onto the track -- where he zoomed to the top of the leaderboard. In an all-JGR sweep across two sessions, Busch joined Carl Edwards as a practice topper with a best speed of 175.240 mph. “Rowdy”, winner of three straight races, was followed by his brother, Kurt, at 175.067 mph. Edwards (174.920 mph), Kevin Harvick (174.771 mph) and Jimmie Johnson (174.584 mph) rounded out the top five. Early in the session, Jeb Burton lost control of his No. 26 ride and rocketed toward pit road, hitting the inside wall in a bizarre accident. “That was my fault,” Burton told NASCAR on NBC. “ ... I just screwed up.” Burton will switch to a backup car and start at the tail of the field. Tony Stewart ’s team also decided to switch out the transmission in his No. 14 Chevrolet. He was 18th in the session at 173.157 mph. Tune in Sunday for the Windows 10 400 at Pocono (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra). Practice 2 " Results Joe Gibbs Racing continued its streak of recent dominance, placing its four drivers atop the leaderboard in Saturday's first Sprint Cup Series practice session at Pocono Raceway. It's Kyle Busch that has won the past three races, but it was Carl Edwards (175.812 mph) that earned the best speed nod. Matt Kenseth was next at 175.418 mph, followed by Busch (175.408 mph) and Denny Hamlin (175.298 mph). Busch will start first in Sunday’s Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra) after winning Friday’s Coors Light Pole Award. Kurt Busch (175.285 mph) and Ryan Newman (175.104 mph) rounded out the top five. Martin Truex Jr ., the spring Pocono winner, was 11th at 174.547 mph. Dale Earnhardt Jr . swept the "Tricky Triangle" last year but has not found that same speed this weekend, placing 23rd in Saturday's opening session at 173.718 mph. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Tony Stewart talks about what NASCAR’s new rules package means for teams and the future of the sport.