The chance at a fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship is over, but that doesn’t mean Tony Stewart is going to coast through what could be the final seven races of his NASCAR career.
The Columbus native, who plans to retire from the Sprint Cup circuit at the end of the season, still hopes to contend for a victory in those races, beginning with tonight’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Sure, I’m disappointed as any competitor would be,” Stewart said in a news release. “I’m not going to let falling out of the Chase ruin what I think has been a really good year. There are still a lot of races left and we are going to go out and try to win a few more. We’ve had a lot of fun this season and that’s not going to stop because we are out of the Chase.”
Stewart finished 13th Sunday at Dover (Delaware) International Speedway, leaving him in 13th place in the Chase standings. The top 12 moved on to the next round.
Previously in this year’s Chase, Stewart had finished 16th at Chicagoland and 23rd at New Hampshire.
“We gave it our best at Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover,” Stewart said. “We made our car much better throughout the weekend in Dover and I was pretty proud we could walk out of there with a 13th place finish. It just wasn’t good enough this year to advance.”
Stewart won the fall race at Charlotte in 2003. He has six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 701 laps in his 34 career Sprint Cup starts at the venue.
In 2009, Stewart also won the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte, his first victory with Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Charlotte certainly has special memories for me,” Stewart said. “Making one more memory would be really cool.”
Stewart is putting the focus on racing rather than retirement the rest of this season.
“All I wanted to do is race hard this year,” Stewart said. “These last few weeks, I am not worried about all the fluff and buff that goes on each week. I just want to go out do the best we can with this team and get the best result. We are going to work hard these next seven races and not worry about anything else.”
Bank of American 500, 7 p.m. (NBC)
Starting position: TBD
Finished 13th in Citizen Soldier 400
CHASE FOR THE CUP
Last race: 28 points
Chase total: Eliminated