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Tony Stewart finds himself in the same spot as last season heading into the AdvoCare 500 in Atlanta with two races before the Chase.
The Columbus native is sitting 10th in the points standings, just as he was last year at this time.
The difference is that while he was on the bubble with no wins last season, his three wins this year make him almost a lock to earn a wild-card spot if he doesn’t finish in the top 10.
“We’ve at least run well with our Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy, and last year we ran well at some tracks and couldn’t capitalize on it,” Stewart said in a news release. “I think it was worse last year because we just hadn’t won a race all season.
“If it wasn’t the longest drought we had, it was close to it,” he said. “So to go that long without a win was pretty heartbreaking up to that point. We’ve got two really good tracks coming up before the Chase — Atlanta and Richmond — so I think it’s a lot different feeling than it was last year at this time.”
Stewart, who won last year’s Chase, isn’t worried about falling out of the top 10.
“Well, we’re still going to be in the Chase,” Stewart said. “It won’t be advantageous to drop out of the top 10, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world either. We didn’t have those bonus points last year, and we were able to come back. It would be nice to have them, though. It’s nine points that we’d have if we stay in the top 10, so we’re going to do everything we can to keep those.”
Stewart said he and his crew learned a lesson in perseverance after last season. After going winless before the Chase, he won five of the 10 races in the Chase.
“This sport, the technology changes so fast, and it wasn’t like something just came into our organization and turned it around,” Stewart said. “But it’s proof that you can be in a slump and it can turn around, literally in a week. So, I think from that side it gives anybody that’s going to be in the Chase, no matter how good or bad they’re running. It gives them that example that it can be done from wherever you’re at, no matter how good or bad you’ve been running.”
Stewart has had some recent success in Atlanta. Last year, he moved from eighth to third in the final 10 laps. In 2010, he won the Emory Healthcare 500, his third victory at the track.
“We had a car that was just dominant all night long, and you just don’t get very many nights where you’ve got a car that’s that good,” Stewart said. “So, hopefully when we go back we’re going to have that same opportunity.”
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