Tony Stewart is “Chaseless in Chicago.”
The Columbus native is out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the third consecutive year, but he won’t let that stop him from pursuing his first win of the season when the 10-race Chase begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
“It’s actually fun, and that’s one of the things you certainly miss being on the outside,” Stewart said in a news release. “The thing I probably remember most about last year is a bunch of the guys went out after it was over and — for a lot of them because we have so many obligations up there, and the married drivers that have children didn’t have their kids up there — they were all excited because they all got to go out and do stuff.
“I remember when I started and a bunch of these guys didn’t have kids and it’s stuff we used to do, anyway,” he said. “It is a lot of fun. It’s the calm before the storm, and doing the media stuff before we actually get started.”
Stewart has three wins in 14 career starts at Chicagoland to go along with a runner-up finish, five top-threes and eight top-fives.
“I think I’ve always been good there,” Stewart said. “You look at the past and we’ve had some weird events. On Fridays, I’ve had two events where I’ve crashed in practice. The first time (2004), Hermie Sadler blew a motor, and before the caution came out, I crashed in his oil and went to the hospital and I missed the rest of the day. And then, the very next year, I blew a tire in practice and J.J. Yeley had to qualify for me.
“It’s one of those places where, as long as I get through Friday, I feel like we’ve got a shot at it,” he said. “But I don’t watch the stats very much. You just take it week to week. Technology in this sport changes so fast. What was good the last time you were there doesn’t mean it’s going to be good the second time around. You constantly have to work. You’ve got to keep pushing the envelope. It’s a place I like. This place is really racy as far as being able to move around and change lines and run anywhere from the bottom to the top. It’s a fun track because of that.”
Stewart also likes the city of Chicago.
“It’s fun for me,” Stewart said. “I grew up four hours south of Chicago and didn’t realize how much fun downtown was until I actually got to go up there through NASCAR. It’s a beautiful place and, being there for some of the Chase activities, we’ve been able to spend some time there to do some stuff on our own. It’s neat to walk around and just see the things in the city.”