Tony Stewart says he and his team have had a miserable year up until just a few weeks ago when he finished third at Atlanta and then seventh at Richmond before his first win of the season at Chicagoland. His 40th career victory also ended a long winless streak.
And what a time of year to get hot. His rain-delayed win on Monday moved him from ninth to second place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, just 7 points behind leader Kevin Harvick and whether he wants to believe it or not he’s now a championship contender. Before the Chase began he said of the 12 drivers in
the field, seven had a legitimate shot at winning the title, but he didn’t consider himself one of them.
New Hampshire is the next stop on the Chase tour where just two months ago, Stewart and teammate, Ryan Newman, qualified and finished 1 & 2, at the one mile track.
Stewart has recorded 15 top-10 finishes, including two victories, in 25 starts at New Hampshire.
Newman has posted three wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 19 races. He’s also claimed five poles.
In last fall’s race at New Hampshire, Clint Boyer had the dominant car but was running second to Stewart in the closing laps until Stewart ran out of gas with less than two laps to go and held off Denny Hamlin to pick up the victory. Three days later, NASCAR handed down some stiff fines when they found Boyer’s car was illegal.
Jeff Gordon is tied with Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Newman for second most wins at New Hampshire with three each. Gordon is looking to rebound after a disappointing finishe at Chicagoland. He tumbled from third to 11th in the standings after his 24th-place run.
Jeff Burton holds the track record with four victories.
Don’t count anybody out of the Chase. Last year Jimmie Johnson finished 25th in the Chase opener at New Hampshire, but went on to win his fifth straight championship.
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