No trick to it

To say that Tony Stewart has forward momentum heading into the second half of his final season on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit would be more than fair. The Columbus native has finished in the top seven in three of his last four races, including a victory at Sonoma three weeks ago.

Today, he’ll be trying to keep the ball rolling at the New Hampshire 301 — and history would suggest that another strong performance is highly likely.

In 33 NASCAR starts at New Hampshire, Stewart has won three times and racked up 14 top-five finishes. He also won there as an IndyCar driver back in 1998.

“There’s nothing tricky or fancy about it,” Stewart said of the oval. “It’s just a fun track. It just seems like it’s always been a fun driver’s track. … It’s just got a little bit of everything the drivers look for to have a good race.”

Stewart is still 30th in the Sprint Cup points standings — the lowest he can finish and still qualify for the season-ending Chase for the Cup — but his fifth-place finish last week in Kentucky helped create some breathing room. He’s now 31 points up on Brian Scott, who’s sitting in 31st place.

Having racked up 130 of his 248 points in just the last four races — and getting the Sonoma win that virtually assured him a spot in the Chase for the Cup — Stewart is feeling good heading into the first of two New Hampshire races this season (the other is Sept. 25, the second leg of the Chase).

“It was a game changer,” he said of the victory, his first since 2013. “We know we’ll likely be part of the Chase and already have begun some planning. The attitude of the team is great. It was so cool to walk into Daytona the week after the win and see everyone loose and smiling. We’ve carried that through to this weekend.”

Final lap update

TODAY’S RACE

New Hampshire 301, 1:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Starting position: (will need to be updated after qualifying, 4:45 p.m. Friday)

LAST RACE

Finished fifth in Quaker State 400

CHASE FOR THE CUP

Last race: 36 points

Season total: 248 points (30th)

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