Stewart needs to work with crew chief

BY Jeff Hammond • April 12, 2011

We saw Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway that Tony Stewart had another case of running out of gas before the race ended.

Obviously, something has gone wrong over there. As you know, I have been trying to watch and listen to follow this situation.

The bottom line, actually, is Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing team have been good. They’ve had opportunities to win this season but couldn’t close the deal. Sure, they have also had a couple bad races. Saturday night at Texas was another case this season, though, where it slipped through their fingers.

I’ve been doing a lot of listening and watching the dynamic between Stewart and crew chief Darian Grubb. One week, it sounds on the radio like Stewart is trying to run the pits mixed with what seemed like some indecision on Grubb's part on some pit calls. It was concerning to me, especially after Stewart lashed out at people on the radio. I wondered how this was going to affect everyone.

On Saturday night, I listened a lot to their team radio because the car wasn’t that good in qualifying and then they were struggling during the early part of the race. Even after the situation happened on pit road, both Stewart and Grubb were very calm and positive on the radio.

Unfortunately, they were going to try to go the distance. I maintain, if they didn’t have the pass-through penalty on pit road, they might have saved enough gas to make it. That penalty is on Stewart.

I think Stewart-Haas Racing, collectively, is solid right now. Both drivers, Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman, are in position to be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. I feel they are one call or one good break away from getting either or both cars to Victory Lane. That’s a good sign.

I think coming out of Texas that things are positive over there. Grubb made a really good call Saturday night that was going to put Tony in the catbird's seat. I thought we were going to have a pretty dang good dramatic finish. Unfortunately he ran out of gas.

They had to take the gamble. The reality is the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing car of Matt Kenseth was too strong Saturday night. Stewart's bunch didn’t have a car that could have beaten the No. 17 in a head-to-head battle. Track position was the key, and they knew it. So no, it was not a bad gamble.

Let’s face it, they have rolled the dice and succeeded in the past. They stretched fuel mileage at times more than others ever dreamed of. Stewart is a master of working the throttle. He knows when to coast and shut the engine off. That’s the mark of a true veteran.

I liked the call, and I liked the effort. They had a game plan and, unfortunately, came up a little short. Just think how different the conversation would be if they had enough gas and won the race?

The key in anything is communication. and I was glad to hear Stewart and Grubb doing that so well Saturday night. I really was concerned after Stewart blew up on the radio in a previous race. That could have been damaging to the team, but they put it all behind them.

Now we head to Talladega this weekend. We know how good Stewart was at Daytona in February. I’ve always maintained that Stewart is one of the smarter guys when it comes to restrictor-plate racing. And Grubb has a Daytona 500 trophy. He is as sharp as anyone when it comes to these plate races. Reducing drag and increasing horsepower is always the goal at tracks like this, and Grubb sure knows how to do that.

You can expect these two-car tangos again. Expect Stewart and all the other drivers to be talking to one another, just like during the Daytona 500.

I think Stewart is an easy choice to be a factor come Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

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