Stewart’s past success stirs hopes for Talladega

When it comes to restrictor-plate racing, luck might play as much of a factor as anything else.

That’s the way it’s been for Tony Stewart at Daytona and Talladega. The Columbus native and his NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors are in Talladega, Alabama, this weekend for Sunday’s Geico 500.

“Someone described racing on the superspeedways as being a combination of a science project and the luck of a casino, and it’s exactly that way,” Stewart said in a news release. “You do everything in your power to take care of the science or technology side. You do everything you can to build the fastest car. If you don’t have the luck to go with it — even if you don’t have any drama with getting the car touched, nothing happens to the car — if you’re just in the wrong spot at the wrong time, it can take you out of the opportunity to take the best racecar in the field and win.”

Stewart has only one win, but a record-tying six runner-up finishes in 31 career starts at Talladega. He has nine top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and a total of 322 laps led at the venue.

Still, he’s not a fan of restrictor-plate racing.

“Well, I’m not any happier about it than I’ve always been, but we’ve had a lot of success at restrictor-plate tracks,” Stewart said. “We’ve run in the top-two at Talladega a gazillion times. I’m glad we’re halfway decent at it, but it’s still always frustrating when you have to rely on what everybody else does. It’s not what you do. It’s what you do along with somebody else who decides that they’re going to follow you and help you. That’s the part that frustrates you as a driver.”

Stewart said Datyona and Talladega are similar in some ways and different in others.

“They’re different tracks with their own characteristics, but it’s plate racing and that really doesn’t change,” Stewart said. “Daytona has always been billed as being more of the handling track, but we’re still drafting and we’ll be in a pack where you’ve got cars on top of each other. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and that’s the same whether we’re racing at Daytona or Talladega.”