Tony Stewart regained a spot in the Chase standings last week but remains a long shot to defend his NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
The Columbus native is in seventh place, 47 points behind leader Brad Keselowski, with four races remaining. The next stop comes at 2 p.m. Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Stewart, who is coming off a fifth-place finish at Kansas, said his crew isn’t working on anything specific at the race shop in Kannapolis, N.C.
“I hope not, because if they’re working extra hard to do something, it’s something they should’ve been doing all along,” Stewart said in a news release. “This sport is so hard and so technical to begin with that you can’t go into each week not giving 100 percent. And you’re not going to get more than that. You’re only going to get 100 percent out of each person, and if they’re not doing that, there’s plenty of guys out there that will work that hard. But I feel like our guys have done a great job of working hard and keeping the morale of the team up.
“Our guys and our attitude in our shop is very, very positive right now,” he said. “We have a really strong group of true racers who have been involved with the team –- guys who have been involved with racing for a long time in different series. They’re really keen and savvy when it comes to keeping their morale high and realizing that one bad week doesn’t take us out of it until they say we’re mathematically out. I feel like they’ve been giving 100 percent all along.”
Stewart has three career wins at Martinsville. The most recent came last October, when he made a late-race pass on Jimmie Johnson.
“I don’t think anybody has ever passed Jimmie Johnson on the outside, so just determination,” Stewart said. “We didn’t have the best racecar that day, by any means, but we had the most determined pit crew to get it as good as they could get it. I was also the only guy who didn’t get in a wreck with somebody, so I was kind of proud of that.
“There are two places where when you take the lead, you absolutely know it,” he said. “It’s Bristol and Martinsville. To pass Jimmie Johnson on the outside with two laps to go and to watch the crowd on the backstretch, then watch them on the frontstretch when we cleared him, you swear people are going to fall onto the racetrack. You feel that energy. You sense that.
“It’s not that you need extra motivation, but it’s cool to know you have that kind of support. It’s just that extra drive that gets you the rest of the way that last lap. It’s cool.”