First win since 2013 puts three-time champion in position for a Chase run
Tony Stewart’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win on Sunday snapped a three-year-long winless streak and virtually locked him into the Chase in what he promises will be his last season as a driver.
The three-time Sprint Cup champion also hopes his road-course win at Sonoma Raceway will shut up the crickets. That`s right -- crickets, not critics.
“In this day of social media where everybody is a cricket, a lot of people are crickets,” Stewart said. “On social media, they sit there and chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp until they`ve got to be in front of you, and then they don`t say a damned word. And listening to people say I`m old and washed up. I know how old I am, I know I haven`t ran good for the last three years, but I`ve felt like if we got things right that it was still there.
“We had a restart with 14 laps to go on an 11‑turn track, and I missed three corners. I don`t know how many corners that is, doing the math, but it`s, what, 160 corners, 150 some odd corners and I screwed up three of them, and the rest of the time I felt like I was the Tony Stewart that has won here and led laps here in the past.”
Stewart made a last-lap pass of Denny Hamlin in his No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS to claim his 49th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. It was Stewart’s third win at Sonoma. It had been 84 races since Stewart’s last win (Dover, October 2013).
“I was thinking more of my guys than me,” Stewart said. “I`m excited for (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) to get his first win and proud that I could get him a win before the end of the year. Excited for this team.
“My guys have been through this whole disastrous roller coaster the last three or four years and never backed down. They`ve never quit on me. There`s days I`ve quit on myself, and they`re the guys that send you text messages and call you when you get home like, `Hey, this isn`t over.` I`m proud for them, and it meant more for me to get it for them than for myself.”
Stewart heads to Daytona in 32nd in the points. He needs to finish in the top 30 to qualify for the Chase.
“We’re still not out of the woods yet,” he said. “We`ve still got work to do, and Daytona next week can be ‑‑ we`re nine out right now. We can be 39 out by the time we leave Daytona, so there`s a lot that can happen still. But I`m proud of where we are. For two guys, for a brand-new crew chief and driver combination, who didn`t get a chance to work with each other until the ninth or 10th race, I feel like we`re gaining ground here, and I`m proud of those guys. I`m really proud of what they`re doing.”
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