Tony Stewart: ‘We’re getting close’ after runner-up finish at New Hampshire

After a fifth-place result at Kentucky Speedway last weekend, Tony Stewart continued his top-five trend with a second-place finish in Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Stewart started 12th, hovering around the top 15 throughout the race

But he stormed his way to the front when it counted the most.

"The hardest part about it honestly is the restarts," Stewart said. "You’ve got two lanes of car going into Turn 1 that are all fighting for one lane."

With one win under his belt at Sonoma Raceway, Stewart moved to 28th in the points standings as he is now more comfortably in the top 30 to solidify his Chase for the Sprint Cup chances. He now has a 67-point cushion before he would fall out of the top 30, and will qualify for the Chase as long as he stays in over the final seven regular-season races.

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Stewart didn’t take all the credit for Sunday’s runner-up finish, though. He continues to be impressed with Mike Bugarewicz, rookie crew chief for the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

Stewart said the team struggled in final practice, but it was Bugarewicz who burned the midnight oil to figure out the right balance in the car while Stewart was putting in work of his own at Eldora Speedway, a dirt track he owns in Rossburg, Ohio. Eldora will host a Camping World Truck Series race this Wednesday.

"Buga did a really good job," said Stewart. "I went to Eldora (Speedway) for the King’s Royal last night, and he sent me a couple texts. He was working as late here (at New Hampshire) as I was working there. It really paid off."

"He’s doing such a great for a rookie crew chief who’s only got half a season, he’s got veteran calls and veteran moves. Really proud of him and proud of this whole team."

After criticizing the tire Goodyear elected to bring to Kentucky Speedway, Smoke was more satisfied with the compound this weekend in Loudon.

"At Kentucky last week we had tires that we’re very easy to race on," Stewart said. "This is probably the best tire that Goodyear has ever brought to Loudon. You could run all over the race track. They’re working hard at it and getting better."

With just the seven races to go before the Chase cutoff, Stewart said he is pleased with the direction the team as he looks to make one last championship run in his final Sprint Cup Series season.

"This is the kind of day we wanted here," he said. "We’re getting close."