Points Standings: 20th
It’s always hard for me to watch races from Phoenix from home- because I like that track- A LOT. Unfortunately time off from the day job dictates that I had to pick a race between Phoenix and Vegas since they are back-to back; and well I always choose Vegas.
I am still not sure what to think about the new qualifying format. I guess maybe after a couple more races and seeing how it actually shakes out I will have more of an opinion there. Tony got knocked out in the first round of knockout qualifying and wound up qualifying 20th- almost exactly midpack.
At Daytona- I felt that Tony really never got a chance to race. Partially due to the beast that is created when plate racing, and partially due to the fuel pick-up issue that present itself after the lengthy rain delay- I didn’t think he really got a chance to do anything to racy with the car. However- once the race had started at Phoenix and I was listening to the communication between Tony, Spotter Bob, and Crew Chief Chad Johnston that I started to feel excited!
Just listening to the communication between Tony and Chad is a huge difference than the last few seasons with Steve Addington. I don’t know if it’s due to the fact the learning from listening to his other crews work together while he was off with his leg injury that did it or if it is just a different more positive energy between Tony Stewart and crew chief Chad Johnston but there was definitely a difference there. Chad was constantly feeding Tony information and telling him when his lap times were getting better. I don’t know if Tony liked that information but I certainly did.
Tony started moving up the field almost right away. He even said over his radio “Anybody got any questions if we’re back?” Love that confidence in himself and his crew- Tony was definitely back. During the competition caution at lap 35 (called due to rain washing the rubber off the track overnight), Tony ended up having to wait in his pit stall for neighbor Alex Bowman (rookie) to get out of his way before he could leave the pitbox- which basically put him back down to 20th and having to work his way forward again. Tony worked his way into the top 15 and was often more around 11-12 and as high as 6th a couple times (usually because of green flag pit stops).
Due to a caution in the middle of a round of green flag pit stops Tony unfortunately got caught a lap down. I HATE it when that happens. This forced the guys to take a wave around. At this point it was hard for Tony to make any forward progress in the field beyond 16th where he finished.
Race winner was new Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick. Whoo!
Notes about Phoenix:
1. Tony got a little snippy with the media during his presser at his hauler in Phoenix- stating that he would be happier when people would quit asking about his leg injury and how he was feeling (see The Quotable Mr. Stewart post). I have to say that I can see where he is coming from. Personally, I was sick of hearing about his leg during the race broadcast- and it’s not even me and my leg they are talking about! I was ready to throw something at the next person who mentioned it. I think that with Tony’s performance at Phoenix we can just pretty much say that his leg, while not fully healed, is working just fine for the races. To slightly misquote the Beatles: Let it be people…let it be.
2. You got to love AJ Foyt. It’s not wonder that Tony calls AJ his idol. Tony and AJ are kindred spirits I think- especially after reading this article by Reid Spencer! My favorite AJ quote: Tony will run just as hard for a dollar as he would for a million dollars. I think that’s where him and I have become friends.
3. Tony had mentioned in some interview back during Daytona SpeedWeeks at some point that Danica Patrick fit right at Stewart-Haas Racing with the new line up because she too had a “bit of a temper” in her as well. She apparently showed that temper to Justin Allgaier after Phoenix where she had a fairly heated discussion with the rookie about contact late in the race.
4. Know a hero? Nominations are now open for the YOUR HERO’S NAME HERE Brickyard 400 presented by Crown Royal. Nominate your hero today at YourHerosNameHere.nascar.com!
Gratuitious Tony Stewart Picture:
#GoTonyGo #14in14 #StandWithSmoke
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