Tony Stewart claims he did not see fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. walking down the track until just before Stewart's car struck the driver during a sprint car race last year in upstate New York, according to court documents. Stewart's view of the incident -- in which Ward was killed -- was made public Friday in a legal response to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Ward's parents earlier this month. In an Aug. 9 event at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, Ward climbed out of his car following a wreck and walked down onto the track to apparently confront Stewart under caution. Stewart's car struck the 20-year-old, who was killed. An Ontario County (N.Y.) grand jury ruled last September that Stewart would not face criminal charges. Friday's filing by Stewart's attorney Brian Gwitt in part reads: " Stewart did not see Ward Jr. exit his vehicle and was not aware that Ward Jr. had exited his vehicle. Stewart was not aware that anyone had exited the vehicle. " Stewart did not see Ward Jr., or anyone else walking on foot on the track until just prior to contact, and did not know the identity of the person walking on the track until afterwards." The document also notes the initial toxicology report that found Ward had marijuana in his system, which the district attorney said last year impaired the driver's judgment, in its counter to the claims by Ward’s parents.
RELATED: Drivers react to Wilson's death NASCAR drivers, teams and others within the industry responded with care and concern Sunday after IndyCar driver Justin Wilson was critically injured in a crash during the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway . Officials with Stewart -Haas Racing confirmed Monday that three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart provided his private plane and pilots to the Wilson family to allow members to travel from Indianapolis to the hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Wilson had been transported. Wilson died late Monday at age 37 from a head injury, according to The Associated Press. It's not the first time Stewart , 44, has reached out to help those in need. But similar to previous instances, Stewart provided the assistance privately. That didn't keep others from taking to social media to note his generosity. IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, second in points, took to Twitter to thank Stewart , co-owner and driver at SHR, for the gesture, writing "You're a hell of a man for donating your plane for JWs family. Hats off to you, you're a very generous human being!” Beccy Hunter-Reay, wife of former IndyCar champ and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay also cited Stewart's generosity, tweeting "words can't describe how thankful the @IndyCar community is for your generosity in helping JWs family." Wilson was injured when he appeared to be struck in the head by debris from a late-race crash involving Sage Karam in the first turn at the 2.5-mile track. The Andretti Autosport driver's car then veered left off the racing surface where it bounced off the inside wall. Emergency workers were quickly on the scene, and Wilson was transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital. Jamie McMurray , who drives for team owner Chip Ganassi in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, tweeted: "Praying for @justin_wilson. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. Amazing driver as well." Ganassi is a longtime IndyCar team owner, and Karam was one of four Ganassi drivers competing in Sunday's event. Kurt Busch , the 2004 Sprint Cup champion, also took to Twitter to say "Praying hard for @justin_wilson. Thinking of his family and everyone at @FollowAndetti & @IndyCar." Busch competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 2014 for Andretti Autosport, finishing sixth in his open-wheel debut. Wilson was part of the winning team for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2012 with fellow drivers AJ Allmendinger , Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew while competing for Michael Shank Racing. He had 17 career starts in GRAND-AM/ALMS/IMSA events.
RELATED: Patrick inks new deal with sponsor, SHR " Busch extension coming 'soon' KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- A planned fifth operation on Tony Stewart 's surgically repaired right leg may not happen after all, the three-time NASCAR champion said Tuesday. Stewart , who severely fractured his lower right leg in a sprint car accident in August 2013, has already had four surgeries, the most recent coming last December. A proposed fifth operation in the offseason would allow doctors to remove his stabilizing titanium rod hardware, but Stewart said he'll find out the status of the surgery in a couple of months. "We actually don't know yet. There's potential that we may not have to have the operation, after all," Stewart said Tuesday at the announcement of Danica Patrick 's new contract and sponsorship deal at Stewart -Haas Racing . "The rod that's in there might stay in there, so at the end of October we're having a meeting with the doctor and we're going to make that decision. Either way, it's either one-and-done or we're done." Stewart broke both his tibia and fibula in a crash at Southern Iowa Speedway, forcing him to miss the final 15 races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. He had three surgeries that year, followed by a fourth just ahead of 2014 Champion's Week, when his teammate Kevin Harvick was feted for his first Sprint Cup crown. Stewart said Tuesday that his leg felt "good," and that the signing of Nature's Bakery to sponsor Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet was a bonus step in a positive, health-conscious direction. Still, Stewart said he's not feeling quite fit enough to emulate Patrick's yoga moves, which tout her flexibility on social media. "I doubt it," Stewart grinned. "Danica and I joked around, I said every time she does one of these poses and posts it on the internet, I'm going to do the same thing. But I said we've got to make sure there's a deal where you don't do but about two or three a week because I'm going to have to have a recovery period for when I break myself."
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 31, 2015) – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina going into the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on September 6 (7 p.m. ET on NBC). DARLINGTON-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Ford) · Two wins, three top fives, six top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 12.800, eighth-best · Average Running Position of 10.597, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 105.7, fifth-best · 296 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.175, fifth-fastest · 2642 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7), seventh-most · 326 Quality Passes, second-most Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota) · One win, two top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 13.600, 11th-best · Average Running Position of 8.995, third-best · Driver Rating of 106.1, fourth-best · 236 Fastest Laps Run, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.348, third-fastest · 3134 Laps in the Top 15 (85.1), third-most · 374 Quality Passes, series-most Dale Earnhardt Jr (No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet) · Four top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 11.200, sixth-best · Average Running Position of 11.404, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 94.3, eighth-best · 110 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.954, ninth-fastest · 2650 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9), sixth-most · 312 Quality Passes, fourth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 ARRIS Toyota) · Three top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 13.100, ninth-best · Average Running Position of 13.732, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 91.0, 12th-best · 151 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.807, 12th-fastest · 2262 Laps in the Top 15 (61.4), 12th-most · 287 Quality Passes, eighth-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 3M Chevrolet) · Seven wins, 19 top fives, 23 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 7.400, second-best · Average Running Position of 7.629, series-best · Driver Rating of 112.7, series-best · 262 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.593, series-fastest · 3356 Laps in the Top 15 (91.1), series-most · 314 Quality Passes, third-most Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 6.889, series-best · Average Running Position of 8.644, second-best · Driver Rating of 107.1, second-best · 186 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.315, fourth-fastest · 2849 Laps in the Top 15 (86.0), second-most · 303 Quality Passes, sixth-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/ Budweiser Chevrolet) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 16.300, 12th-best · Average Running Position of 14.772, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 93.1, 10th-best · 167 Fastest Laps Run, second-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.885, 10th-fastest · 2531 Laps in the Top 15 (68.7), ninth-most · 267 Quality Passes, 10th-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Three wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 8.800, third-best · Average Running Position of 9.992, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 106.8, third-best · 256 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.443, second-fastest · 2789 Laps in the Top 15 (75.7), fourth-most · 291 Quality Passes, seventh-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 HendrickRideAlong.com Chevrolet) · Three top fives, four top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 17.500, 13th-best · Average Running Position of 10.665, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.9, sixth-best · 230 Fastest Laps Run, series-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.069, seventh-fastest · 2597 Laps in the Top 15 (70.5), eighth-most · 233 Quality Passes, 13th-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · One win, three top fives, ten top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 10.100, fourth-best · Average Running Position of 13.487, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 93.2, ninth-best · 123 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.814, 11th-fastest · 2382 Laps in the Top 15 (64.7), 11th-most · 264 Quality Passes, 11th-most Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · Seven top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.300, seventh-best · Average Running Position of 11.409, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 95.8, seventh-best · 64 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.086, sixth-fastest · 2778 Laps in the Top 15 (75.4), fifth-most · 259 Quality Passes, 12th-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet) · Four top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 10.900, fifth-best · Average Running Position of 14.805, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 88.1, 13th-best · 105 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.791, 13th-fastest · 2153 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4), 13th-most · 311 Quality Passes, fifth-most Martin Truex Jr (No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet) · One top five, three top 10s · Average finish of 13.111, 10th-best · Average Running Position of 13.116, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 92.1, 11th-best · 127 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.992, eighth-fastest · 2153 Laps in the Top 15 (65.0), 10th-most · 278 Quality Passes, ninth-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 10 at D arlington Raceway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 18 1 1 4 7 1 17 93.1 2 Joey Logano 6 0 0 0 2 1 23 77.9 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr 20 0 0 4 9 1 14.3 94.3 4 Brad Keselowski 6 0 0 1 2 0 14.3 84.7 5 Jimmie Johnson 16 0 3 9 12 1 8.4 106.8 6 Martin Truex Jr 9 0 0 1 3 0 13.1 92.1 7 Matt Kenseth 21 1 1 3 10 1 16 93.2 8 Kurt Busch 18 2 0 2 5 1 17.9 81.6 9 Denny Hamlin 9 0 1 4 7 0 6.9 107.1 10 Jamie McMurray 14 1 0 3 5 1 16.1 82.6 * – Based on last 10 races at Darlington Raceway (2005 – 2014). Darlington Three Year Average Finishes Of Drivers Currently 17th – 30th In The Standings Points Pos. Driver 3 Yr. Average Finish (2012 - 2014) 17 Aric Almirola 21.0 18 Kasey Kahne 20.7 19 Greg Biffle 10.0 20 Austin Dillon 11.0 21 Kyle Larson 8.0 22 Danica Patrick 27.0 23 Casey Mears 25.7 24 AJ Allmendinger 24.0 25 David Ragan 33.0 26 Sam Hornish Jr . * 0.0 27 Tony Stewart 9.0 28 Trevor Bayne * 0.0 29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr . 19.0 30 Justin Allgaier 23.0 * Sam Hornish Jr . and Trevor Bayne have not made starts in the last three seasons at Darlington in the NSCS. Statistical Advance At Darlington Raceway : History · Darlington Raceway was built as a 1.25-mile paved superspeedway in 1949-1950. · Darlington Raceway hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt on Sept. 4, 1950 – 75 cars competed in the event - Curtis Turner won the pole at 82.034 mph, and the race was won by Johnny Mantz (Plymouth, 75.250 mph, 6:38:40) . · The track was re-measured to 1.375 miles in 1953. · The track was re-configured to 1.366 miles following the spring race in 1970. · The track was repaved in 1995. · The 2005 race was the first Saturday night race at Darlington. · The track was repaved again prior to the 2008 season. Starts · There have been 111 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington Raceway . The 1.366-mile track has hosted the fifth most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying races. · 709 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway ; 428 in more than one. · NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Darlington with 65. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 34 starts; followed by Tony Stewart with 22. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Darlington with a 6.824. · Jeff Gordon (6.8), Ryan Newman (8.6) and Kasey Kahne (9.1) are the only active three drivers with an average starting position in the top 10. · 125 different drivers have made NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career debut at Darlington Raceway . Poles · Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light Pole Award at Darlington in 1950 in an Oldsmobile with a speed of 82.034 mph. · 48 drivers have Coors Light poles at Darlington, led by David Pearson with 12. Kasey Kahne leads all active drivers with four. · Nine drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Darlington. Kasey Kahne is the only active driver with consecutive Coors Light poles (2005-2006). · David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Darlington with five (1975 - 1977). · Youngest Darlington pole winner: Kurt Busch (09/02/2001 – 23 years, 0 months, 29 days). · Oldest Darlington pole winner: David Pearson (09/06/1982 – 47 years, 8 months, 15 days). · Eight drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole at Darlington Raceway : Cotton Owens (1957), Fred Lorenzen (1961), Bill Elliott (1981), Ken Schrader (1987), John Andretti (1995), Kurt Busch (2001), Elliott Sadler (2003) and Clint Bowyer (2007). Wins · 47 different drivers have won at Darlington Raceway , led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins; followed by his HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson with three. · Six drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Darlington Raceway : Johnny Mantz (1950), Nelson Stacy (1961), Larry Frank (1962), Terry Labonte (1980), Lake Speed (1988) and Regan Smith (2011). · Youngest Darlington winner: Kyle Busch (05/10/2008 – 23 years, 0 months, 8 days). · Oldest Darlington winner: Harry Gant (09/01/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 22 days). · Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Darlington in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 14. Manufacturer Wins Chevrolet 41 Ford 28 Mercury 10 Oldsmobile 6 Dodge 5 Pontiac 5 Buick 4 Plymouth 4 Hudson 3 Toyota 3 American Motors Company 2 · 11 different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Darlington; led by Chevrolet with 41 victories; followed by Ford with 28 and Toyota has three. · 20 of the 111 (18.02%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kevin Harvick in last season’s event. · NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson has won from the pole four times at Darlington – the series’ most. · The Coors Light pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Darlington. The outside front row (second-place) has produced the second-most wins (17). Wins · 37 of the 111 (33.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the front row: 20 from first-place and 17 from second-place. · 96 of the 111 (86.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Darlington have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Six of the 111 (5.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Darlington is 43rd by Johnny Mantz in 1950 – the inaugural NSCS event. · 13 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Darlington; Dale Earnhardt (1989-1990) and Jeff Gordon (1995-1996) are tied for the series-most in consecutive wins at Darlington with three each. · All seven active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Darlington Raceway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Among active drivers, Kyle Busch won at Darlington in the fewest previous appearances (three). · Matt Kenseth competed at Darlington Raceway 19 times before winning last season; the longest span of any the six active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. · Tony Stewart leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Darlington without visiting Victory Lane at 22. Additional Finishing Position Stats · Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty are tied for the series most runner-up finishes at Darlington with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in second-place finishes at Darlington with four. · Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Darlington with 25. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19; followed by Jimmie Johnson with nine. · Bill Elliott leads the series in top-10 finishes at Darlington with 35. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 23; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with 12 each. · Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Darlington with a 6.889. · Three active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have an average finish in the top 10 at Darlington: Denny Hamlin (6.8), Kyle Larson (8.0) and Jimmie Johnson (8.4). Track/Event Specific Stats · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington Raceway is the (03/16/2003) race won by Ricky Craven with a MOV of 0.002 second over Kurt Busch . The MOV is tied with the 2011 Talladega race as the closest finish in the NSCS since the inception using electronic timing and scoring. · There have been four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting in a green-white-checkered finish at Darlington Raceway : 2005 (367/370), 2011 (367/370), 2012 (367/368) and 2014 (367/374). Additional Finishing Position Stats · Eight of the 111 races at Darlington Raceway have been shortened du
RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase Bubble Watch Kyle Larson spent three intense days at Homestead-Miami Speedway last week logging laps, studying data and working on what could potentially be the most important homework assignment of his career. So far. Knowing that the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will be crowned at the Nov. 22 season-finale at the 1.5-mile speedway, the test session -- a two-day Goodyear tire test followed by a one-day open test -- was an essential learning tool. Thing is, Larson, last year's Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year, still has to earn a spot in the 16-driver Chase field to even be among the title discussion by the time the series heads back to the South Florida track to race. And time's running out. Only two chances remain to grab one of the playoff spots -- this week at Darlingon and next week at Richmond. Because Larson is not currently ranked among the top-16 in the points standings, his only chance of earning a Chase berth is winning a race and making his first career trip to a Sprint Cup Victory Lane. It's crunch time, and Larson knows it. "We know we have to win," Larson said. "And still right now, we have to find some more speed to compete for a win. We've been close a couple times this year just based on strategies. "It could happen even with just two races left. We tested at Richmond earlier in the year and it went well. I always run just outside top-10 at Richmond and I thought I learned a lot (at the test). So we've got good stuff for Richmond, and Darlington is a track I like a lot." Having his season's fate decided in such dramatic fashion wasn't exactly what Larson or others predicted. Larson was widely considered a shoe-in for a title run -- at least a playoff berth -- after an impressive rookie season. A natural talent from the same kind of open-wheel background as three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart and four-time champ Jeff Gordon , Larson has emerged as one of the sport's new young headliners and is widely regarded as future championship material. Now the 23-year-old must seal the deal. "I'm definitely surprised it's come down to this," Larson said while waiting out a rain delay last week at Homestead. "The way both Jamie (McMurray, CGR teammate) and I ended last year, we thought we'd be a contender this year. "We've been fast but just haven't had any luck at all this year and that's been really frustrating. When we have speed in the cars we run in top-10. At Bristol, for example, we blew two front tires. Last year we'd run way worse but have better finishes." WATCH: Rough night for Larson at Bristol There's no denying it's been a no-luck, hard-knock kind of season despite the team's best efforts. While Chip Ganassi Racing 's other Chevrolet driven by McMurray is in promising position to earn a Chase position based on points, it's been a tough road for the team's second-year driver. Larson's third place at Dover in May is his best finish of the season and only top-five showing after a rookie year when he was regularly mixing it up at the front of the field, posting five top-three finishes, including three runner-ups. He's had only two top-10s in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet since Dover this spring, and his four DNFs equal the number he had all of last year. But there is encouraging news to consider, and Larson has not conceded a thing. His No. 42 Chevrolet was easily one of the best cars in the Chase last year with six top-10 finishes in the final 10 races, including a streak of five consecutive as the postseason kicked in. MORE: Larson's Darlington 'Days of Thunder' throwback scheme Should Larson earn a playoff chance, he feels the team should be strong down the stretch. "Last year I thought we were running better at this point in the season than we are now," Larson said. "But a lot of the tracks in the Chase I really enjoy running at and I think that's part of why we had success in the Chase. "I think we'll be good again this year in the Chase. It's just right now, we're not in it." He added quickly: "That could change." MORE: Who's most likely to win way into Chase?
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- With Danica Patrick back in the Stewart -Haas Racing fold for 2016 and beyond, the team alignment for the four-driver NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign is less of a "glass half full" proposition and more like three-quarters full after Tuesday's announcement. The remaining piece to the SHR puzzle is also its most recent addition -- Kurt Busch , who moved over to drive the No. 41 Chevrolet in 2014. Team co-owner Tony Stewart summed up the timing of potentially re-signing the 37-year-old driver in one word: "Soon." Stewart's Tuesday morning comments backed up remarks by Gene Haas, the team's co-owner, in recent weeks, stating that a contract extension with the former Sprint Cup champion was nearing completion. "I think we're getting close on that as well," Stewart said after Patrick's No. 10 Nature's Bakery Chevrolet was unveiled at the SHR shop. "Like I said, the great thing is it's seamless transitions at this point, so if we can finish up a couple details then we'll be able to focus on making these race cars good for the Chase again." Busch and Stewart -Haas teammate Kevin Harvick are among those drivers who have already clinched a return trip to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion, and Busch, who was crowned in 2004, are each two-time winners this season. Busch missed the first three races of the season because of a NASCAR-mandated suspension related to an investigation of domestic violence. After the absence, Busch has built upon his chemistry with veteran crew chief Tony Gibson, rallying to eighth place in the Sprint Cup driver standings with wins at Richmond and Michigan this year. Busch qualified for the Chase last season with a victory at Martinsville Speedway in just his sixth start for the team. He was eliminated from the 16-driver Chase field in the opening three-race round.
RELATED: 'Smoke' looks to move forward in return to Watkins Glen MORE: See Sunday's lineup WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart will start third in Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) following his best qualifying effort of the season. Stewart (127.410 mph) trailed only pole winner and defending race winner AJ Allmendinger (127.839) and Martin Truex Jr . (127.569) following Coors Light Pole Qualifying here at Watkins Glen International on Saturday. "That was all I had," Stewart , 44, said. "I'm very content with that. Three good weeks of qualifying, that really makes me happy to do it at three different tracks with three different (rules) packages. This is an awesome way to start the weekend for sure." Sitting 25th in points, Stewart needs a victory within the next five races to earn one of the 16 positions in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Sunday's race will mark his first start at the 2.45-mile road course since 2012. A five-time winner here, Stewart suffered a broken leg in a sprint car accident in Iowa less than a week before the 2013 Watkins Glen race. The injury forced him out for the final 15 races of the season. Last year, Stewart was involved in a sprint car accident on the eve of the Watkins Glen event. Driver Kevin Ward Jr. was killed when he was struck by Stewart's car. Stewart sat out for three races before he eventually returned to complete the season. On Friday, Ward's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Stewart -Haas Racing co-owner/driver. SHR officials have not issued an official comment regarding the suit. Greg Zipadelli, competition director for SHR and Stewart's crew chief for two of his three championships, said Saturday's qualifying run by Stewart was big. "It's cool … for Tony to be at a place he loves and where he's had a lot of success," Zipadelli said. "He had a good car yesterday, they spent some time looking at where he felt like he was off and he went out and (got the job done) today. "I think it’s awesome for this group of guys, awesome for him and we're certainly looking forward to tomorrow." The task to get better results on race day remains. Stewart started fourth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and fifth a week later at Pocono Raceway. He finished 28th at Indy; his ninth-place run at Pocono was only his second top-10 of the season. "We are pretty happy with how they have progressed," Zipadelli said. "But let's face it, they're not leading laps yet and (competing) for wins … that's what we need to do. We've still got some room to continue to grow. "But I think it's now to the point, the confidence -- you saw him come in last Monday to the shop and was upbeat about the way he ran and qualified the last two weeks. I see him walking around here today; I saw him this morning. He's happy. That's what we need."
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
During a caution caused by Jimmie Johnson 's spin on Lap 58, Tony Stewart was stalled on the track and unable to move. This would bring his day to an early end after the car was taken to the garage. Stewart was heard saying on his radio, "Something broke." Stewart had posted his best qualifying run of the season at Watkins Glen, putting the No. 14 Stewart -Haas Chevrolet third on the starting grid. After getting his No. 14 Stewart -Haas Racing Chevrolet pushed off the track, "Smoke" headed to the garage with 30 laps left and his day was finished. Stewart is a five-time Watkins Glen winner and came into the race 25th in the points standings with just two top-10 finishes on the season. He finished the Cheez-It 355 in 43rd place and slipped to 26th place in teh standings, 405 points behind Sprint Cup Series leader Kevin Harvick .
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