Stewart looks to finish Western swing on a high note

To say the start to the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season hasn’t gone well for Tony Stewart would be a massive understatement.

The Columbus native hasn’t finished better than 30th in any of the first four events and sits 36th in the point standings going into Sunday’s event in Fontana, California.

The Auto Club Speedway at Fontana has been somewhat kind to Stewart. He has two wins, seven top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and 332 laps led in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at the venue.

“If a guy gets going and gets his car balanced, then he’ll tend to run away,” Stewart said in a news release. “That’s just the characteristic of that kind of track. It’s fast, it’s flat and momentum is so important there, that if a guy is off just a little, he’s off a lot. The drivers like it from the standpoint that if you can find a way to get around it a little better, then it’ll help them in the long run. You end up racing the racetrack instead of each other.”

The track at Fontana has multiple racing grooves which places the race a little more in the driver’s hands.

“It’s nice knowing that as a driver you can help yourself out and you’re not relying so much on the car,” Stewart said. “Regardless of what everyone else is doing, you can find a way to help yourself out. It makes you feel good knowing that because the place is so wide, you can move around, and basically, earn your money that day.

“As far as when to start trying the different grooves, really from the drop of the green flag, you do it from there on out because what works for one part of the race may not work at another point,” he said. “Basically, it’s as soon as you feel like you’re not where you need to be. If you feel like you’re slower than the pace you need to be running, you’re going to move up the racetrack and find a place that helps balance your racecar.”

While Fontana might look similar to Las Vegas, where NASCAR raced two weeks ago, Stewart said it’s more like Michigan.

“Las Vegas is sort of a track all its own,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure that it has the amount of banking that Michigan has, but it is a flatter track than Michigan. The way you approach the weekend is pretty much the same as far as setups on the Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevy go.”