Tony Stewart's post-race comments after Monday's win
Round one in the NASCAR Sprint Cup 10-race Chase for the Championship is over and Tony Stewart was the big winner Monday afternoon in many ways.
Of course, Stewart was the winner on the track, earning his first victory of the 2011 season and continuing his streak of winning one race in each of his 13 seasons in NASCAR's top circuit. That's a pretty impressive feat by Stewart, especially since he is in his third season as a team owner. Stewart doesn't stand for mediocrity from himself or those he employs. So, really, it's not a surprise to see him find success. He's also owned several other teams in USAC midgets and sprints, World of Outlaw sprints and in modified dirt cars. So, he did know a little something about being a team owner before taking the big step into NASCAR team ownership.
Stewart also took a big step Monday in the points standings, jumping from ninth to second. He went from 102 points behind the leaders before the Chase, to just 12 before Chicagoland as the points were reset. Now he sits just seven points behind series leader Kevin Harvick.
While the big issue in the final few laps Monday was fuel mileage strategy, Stewart and Harvick, who finished second, had enough to get to the end, Stewart's statement before the Chase started was probably one of the smartest things he said, basically stating he feels his team is not a contender to win the title.
Some may see that as a bit negative, but it was truly the right thing to say. That's because Stewart has put his team in the underdog role. The 'we have nothing to lose' mentality is a great way to motivate a team and yet keep them relaxed in pressure situations. Even after the win, Stewart downplayed his team's chance to win the title. He wants his team to keep the attitude that they are the 'chasers,' not the 'chasees.' It also puts the pressure and focus on Stewart, not on crew Darian Grubb, or the rest of his crew.
It was a great move by Stewart. He may have some more in store for the next nine races.