Stewart clings to his bonus points

Tony Stewart is a cinch to advance to the Chase next month, but the Sprint Cup star's potential bonus points are at risk.

We’ve all seen Tony Stewart and that No. 14 car go through some adversity these last few weeks. What people can’t lose sight of, however, is the fact they are actually doing much better than a year ago. If you pull out and look where the No. 14 car was after 24  races this year vs. 24 races last year, they are in a whole lot better shape.

Obviously, Steve Addington is guiding the ship this year with Tony’s former crew chief, Darian Grubb, having moved to the Denny Hamlin car. A year ago at this point, they were sitting just barely inside the top 10 in points with zero wins. This year, yes, they are once again 10th in points, but they already have those three wins to fall back on.

They are going to make the Chase. That’s not the issue. What’s at stake in these next two races is keeping Tony in the top 10 in points. If they don’t, then Tony will still get in the Chase with a wild card spot due to those three wins. But here's the rub: If he falls outside the top 10, the nine bonus points he would receive from those three wins don’t count once the Chase starts. That’s one of the provisions of a wild card berth – you get in the Chase but you don’t receive any bonus points for your previous regular-season wins.

The guys and gals at Stewart-Haas Racing and particularly that No. 14 car have all been here before. They are professionals and they know what to expect. They are smart enough to focus on what is coming up at Atlanta, Richmond and the 10 Chase races as opposed to looking back at what’s happened to them these last three weeks.

After what happened with Matt Kenseth at Bristol, will Tony race Matt any differently? Let’s just put it this way: I don’t think Tony will cut him any slack. Tony has a way and a knack for getting his point across, while not necessarily getting himself in trouble.

He just has his way of letting you know that you got his attention, he knows how you race now and more importantly, Tony is going to show you how he’s going to do it from here on out.

So finishing off these last two regular-season races and then those 10 Chase races, Matt better not expect that No. 14 to give him any slack whatsoever.

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