Stewart hopes to deliver early Father’s Day gift

Tony Stewart remembers taking a trip to Iowa with his father for a go-kart race when he was young.

“We won out there, and I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning when we finally finished,” Stewart said. “I was 12 years old, so it was way past my bedtime, but it was the first time I had seen that much excitement in my father’s face.

“I guess he realized more at the time what we had accomplished than what I realized had happened.”

More than 30 years later, Stewart has accomplished more in racing than he or his dad could have possibly imagined at that time.

Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit has an off week on the schedule, which happens to line up with Father’s Day. In that spirit, Stewart would like to give his father, Nelson, an early gift — a victory in the FireKeepers Casino 400 today at Michigan International Speedway.

The No. 14 car is well positioned to pull it off — Tony Stewart steered the car to the No. 3 starting position during qualifying.

He’ll need a strong finish today to generate some momentum going forward. On Monday at Pocono, Stewart started sixth but wound up falling to a 34th-place finish after getting caught up in an accident.

That dropped him down a spot to 36th in the Sprint Cup points standings, 71 points out of the No. 30 spot he needs to reach to qualify for the Chase for the Cup playoffs.

One of the big keys in today’s race, Stewart says, is efficiency in navigating the turns — something he says can make a monumental time difference over the course of a full race.

“With the corners so big and so sweeping, being able to have the flexibility to change your entry to the corner really pays off there,” he said.

Final lap update

TODAY’S RACE

FireKeepers Casino 400, 1 p.m. (FS1)

Starting position: Third

LAST WEEK

Finished 34th in Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400

CHASE FOR THE CUP

Last week: 7 points

Season total: 118 points (36th)

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.