A lot of attention has been centered around Tony Stewart this season, and little of it has been positive. Instead of placing any blame on his team or embattled crew chief Chad Johnston, Stewart put the criticism squarely on his own shoulders.
“I’m holding him (Johnston) and the team back versus vice versa,” Stewart said during a teleconference on Tuesday morning. “So it’s just a matter of me trying to figure it out, figure out how to go forward and get our cars better.”
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver-owner is currently 28th in points and has just one top-10 finish on the season. Despite solid runs at both Sonoma and Daytona, he still finished outside of the top 10. With a mistake made on pit road late at Sonoma, some of the blame was placed on the team from fans of Smoke.
Coming off one of his worst races of the year at Kentucky, Stewart wouldn’t comment on his thoughts of the new aero package. When asked about his thoughts, Smoke said, “I’m not sure I’m the best judge of it.”
Instead of sharing his thoughts on the new package used at Kentucky, Stewart noted that he feels NASCAR should help with the financial side of getting the cars ready. With the costs incurred by SHR and other teams to abide by NASCAR’s rules, it puts a strain on the team financially.
Even with the team scuffling up to this point, Stewart knows his team can turn it all around quickly with the new Chase format. Still in the top 30 in points, Smoke would just need a win to secure a spot in NASCAR’s postseason.
“Honestly, you know, when we had the improvements in 2011, it literally was overnight,” Stewart said. “I didn’t see that coming obviously then. With the way this format is, I mean, all it takes is one good race for us to get in, top 30 in the points.
“If we can find whatever it is that we’ve been missing, you know, one race can change our whole season.”
Luckily for the No. 14 team, NASCAR is heading to several courses where Stewart has found success. Currently with three wins at New Hampshire, he has the most wins among active drivers at the track. He will then have to put on his track owner cap to run the Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway on July 22 before returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Indy, of course, is Smoke’s home track. Holding two wins, seven top fives and an average finish of 8.5 at IMS, there’s no better chance on the schedule for the No. 14 team to find some redemption—and Stewart knows it.
“Well, I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret to anybody that we’re struggling,” Stewart said. “So, you know, you’re always excited to race at home. I’m always excited to be at the Brickyard. That’s just a place that’s special to me.
“I think for us right now, we’ll still work as hard as we can to get the best result we can get out of it.”
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