April 9, 2012
By Matthew Pizzolato
Several years ago when Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to start his own race team with Gene Haas, the critics said it would be years before he would see any success.
Stewart proved the doubters wrong during his first season at Stewart Haas Racing in 2009, winning four points paying races as well as the All-Star race and finishing sixth in the points that year.
He won twice in 2010 and last season, he silenced the critics for good by winning the Championship in spectacular fashion by claiming five victories in the final ten races of the season. It was probably the most dramatic finish to a NASCAR season with the title not being decided until the final lap as Stewart tied in points with Carl Edwards and won the Championship via tie-breaker by having more wins.
This season, Stewart has quickly proven that Stewart Haas Racing is the team to beat. Although it took five years, someone finally knocked Jimmie Johnson from his pedestal and now Stewart is firmly entrenched atop of it.
Stewart has two wins already on the season and his teammate, Ryan Newman, won last weekend at Martinsville. Clearly, the team has found something that others in the garage have not.
At the end of last season, Stewart replaced his championship winning crew chief, Darian Grubb, with Steve Addington and the team hasn't missed a beat. Yet even Stewart realizes this is one of the best runs of success he's ever had.
"Especially to go through an offseason and pick it back up and to have some pretty big personnel changes in the middle of all that so, it’s pretty big right now," Stewart was quoted as saying in a press conference at Martinsville. "You know the hard part is that you just don’t want it to end, you want it to stay like this.
"I don’t know that it is the best I have run in my career but it is pretty close," Stewart said. "I mean when we were running the year we won the Triple Crown in ’95 I feel like that is the best that I had ever run in my career and I don’t feel like we are far off that right now."
It's quite remarkable to realize that Stewart has won seven of the last fifteen races. However, he attributes his recent success to spending a lot of time on the track.
"I just feel like I have been racing a lot and I feel like that has helped so I think our group here has done a great job and I just feel like I am always in that race mode," Stewart was quoted as saying. "I mean I am always running something but it makes it good when you come on a weekend and the cars are driving good and that’s been that way since Chicago of last year all the way through now."
With so much momentum and recent success, can Tony Stewart defend last year's Championship by winning another this season?
The real question that needs to be asked is simple. Is there anyone that can keep Stewart from winning a second consecutive championship? The way things are looking now, probably not.
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
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