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Tony Stewart’s first run on the newly paved Michigan track was a successful one.
The Columbus resident finished second when the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit stopped there in June. This weekend, it’s back for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.
“Once it cleaned off, it seemed like the track got to be pretty good,” Stewart said in a press release. “It was still a relatively one-groove track, but it got better as the weekend went on.
“Hopefully, the racetrack will continue on that path and continue to widen out. It was a lot racier than I thought it would be, right off the bat, so I’m anticipating it’s going to be even better when we get back on it this weekend.”
Speeds at Michigan approached the 200 mph range in June. But Stewart isn’t worried.
“The safety of these cars has come a long way, and race-track safety, too, with the soft walls,” Stewart said. “I don’t think you’re ever really concerned about it until something bad happens. But I’ve been to racetracks, and I’ve seen crashes at 60 mph that hurt people a lot worse than 160 mph. So I feel pretty confident with the safety package that we have, with both the racetrack side and with what NASCAR has done with the cars.”
Stewart has a win, four top-three and seven top-12 finishes in the past nine races. His average finish in that span is 9.5, although his average start is 21.2.
“In my career, I’ve not been much of a qualifier, so I’ve learned to never give up, no matter what our starting spot might be,” Stewart said. “No matter what, we always go into every Sunday knowing that our starting position is where we’re starting — that’s it. But we run through our race as if we’re starting on the pole and we’ve got a shot to win it. We just have never given up, and no matter what, we keep digging at it.”
With four races remaining before the Chase begins, Stewart sits eighth in points, 63 ahead of 11th-place Kasey Kahne. With three wins, he is practically guaranteed a wild-card spot if he falls out of the top 10 in points.
“You feel better knowing you have three wins,” Stewart said. “But the thing is, you don’t really think from that standpoint. You always go in there every weekend with the intention that you’re going to win the race. So you’re focusing on what you’ve got to do to keep your program good so when you get in the Chase, you can perform in the Chase.
“But, for right now, it’s just kind of the same thing we always talk about every year at this time,” he said. “We’re taking it one week at a time, and you’re just trying to make sure that every track you’re going to, you’re getting 100 percent out of what your package is that weekend.”
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