Tony Stewart calls Pocono “the ultimate momentum racetrack.”
He’s counting on using a strong finish there to build up some momentum for the stretch run in his final season.
After missing the early part of the season with a back injury, Stewart has crept his way up into 35th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings — but there’s plenty of work left to do if he’s going to qualify for the Chase for the Cup.
In order to make it into the 10-race Chase, Stewart will need to finish in the top 30 in points and also pick up a win. Including today, he has 13 races to make up that ground.
Pocono would be a good place to start. In 34 career Sprint Cup points races at the 2.5-mile track, Stewart owns two poles, two wins, eight top-threes, 12 top-fives, 23 top-10s and has led a total of 183 laps.
He’ll start sixth there today.
In addition to having had previous success at Pocono, Stewart can bank on the institutional knowledge of his crew, which has three Pennsylvania natives — crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, Justin Peiffer and Josh Sobecki.
Stewart made his Pocono debut in 1986, racing a go-kart there at the age of 15. He’s plenty familiar with the track, too.
“You have the longest front stretch in all of racing,” he said. “By the time you get to the end of it, you feel like you are threading a needle. Then you start in the banking and you have to downshift in that equation. It’s three distinct corners you have to approach three different ways. All three of them are so crucial.”
Having a successful run today is crucial for Stewart as well.
THIS WEEKEND’S RACE
Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400, 1 p.m. (FS1)
Starting position: Sixth
Finished 24th in Coca-Cola 600
CHASE FOR THE CUP
Last week: 17 points
Season total: 111 points (35th)