I know this is going to sound pretty strange to everyone, but honestly, I felt even better about Tony Stewart’s run at Pocono this past Sunday than I did about his win at Dover the week before. Now trust me, that’s not taking anything away from his win, because in today’s NASCAR competition, wins are extremely hard to come by. In my book, winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup race is the toughest thing to do in all of motorsports.
I just was really happy for Stewart-Haas Racing finishing fourth and fifth. The last time that Stewart-Haas Racing had two cars in the top five at the end of the race was eleven months ago when Tony won the July Daytona race and Ryan Newman finished in the top five. That’s a long stretch to go with the caliber of drivers and equipment they have.
I think we all knew that this group would not stay down for long. They knew the issues they were facing and put a full-court press on using their test dates now to improve now. Clearly that strategy is paying off.
Greg Zippadelli, their director of competition, told me it just wasn’t one thing that was giving them issues. They knew what they were getting into with starting a third team for new teammate Danica Patrick. Maybe what they did underestimate was the toll a third team would take when combined with moving personnel around plus dealing with a brand new Generation 6 race car all in the same season. All those things combined are probably what have kept them behind the first ten or eleven races.
I don’t think you can underestimate what these guys are capable of doing yet in 2013. I say that also acknowledging that applies more to Tony than maybe Ryan. Last year winning early was really misleading if you look at Tony’s history. When the weather gets hot, the Indianapolis 500 is over and the track gets slick, it just seems like Tony comes to life.
People better not forget 2011 and how dangerous Tony Stewart can be. Remember that year he didn’t even have a win in the first twenty-six races and still won the championship. So if you compare today to back to 2011, Tony is actually ahead of the game.
When it comes to their rookie driver, I still have mixed feelings about that. She now has twenty-four NASCAR Sprint Cup starts under her belt. Last Sunday, you had Tony and Ryan finishing in the top five, yet Danica finished 29th. Some people might say “Yes, but that was her first time at Pocono.” The problem with that statement is that, in 2006, Denny Hamlin won the first two times he raced there.
Don’t get me wrong. Danica brings a lot to our sport, and I am delighted she is in NASCAR. She now has been to every single track on the circuit at least once. The time is now. Her teammates are running well, and it’s time for her to do the same. The novelty of Danica being in NASCAR will soon wear off, and that’s just being blunt and candid.