Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR. All Graphics designed by Toby Christie/Sicknissified.com.
*Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment, of a 12 article series where we will be previewing the 2013 season for the drivers who made the Chase last season.
By: Toby Christie – Follow on Twitter @Tobalical
Last season was an anomaly for many reasons for Tony Stewart. For one he came out like gang busters by winning two of the first five races, while it usually takes until mid-summer for him to hit his strides. Another reason it was a strange season for “Smoke” is that he was completely ineffective in the second half of the season, and as a result he finished a disappointing ninth in the championship standings in 2012.
For 2013 Stewart will look to improve his chemistry with crew chief Steve Addington, who has seemingly found a home after bouncing from Kyle Busch to Kurt Busch over the last few years. However if Addington wants to keep his place at Stewart-Haas Racing secure, he may want to get things figured out in the Chase.
Since 2008 Addington has only recorded one win in the second-half of the season and that came with Kurt Busch at Dover in 2011. He wins a lot of races, but to this point it hasn’t been when it counts the most. Addington has been a crew chief in four Chases, his finish in each are: 10th, 11th, 11th and 9th. That being said there have to be some concerns brewing slightly for Stewart, but if he comes out this year and takes five of the ten checkered flags in the Chase again it’ll all be an afterthought.
Stewart as an owner will have an exciting, and possibly stressful season as his team expands to three full-time cars. In addition to his own No. 14 Chevrolet SS, he will field the No. 39 for Ryan Newman and the No. 10 for rookie Danica Patrick. This seems to be a make-or-break season for Ryan Newman sponsorship-wise, and after just one Chase appearance in the last three seasons maybe it’s make-or-break from a performance standpoint as well. For Patrick she has to get past the learning curve quickly, Stewart will only stand by and watch cars get wadded up so long.
And to add even more pressure to the other two drivers at Stewart-Haas Racing; Kevin Harvick should be heading to the team after the 2013 season.
It’ll be an interesting season all together for Stewart from the driver’s seat and from the board room.
Starts: 36, Wins: 3, Top5: 12, Top10: 16, Poles: 1, Laps Led: 420, Average Start: 18.3, Average Finish: 13.6, DNF: 2
Starts: 500, Wins: 47, Top5: 174, Top10: 282, Poles: 14, Laps Led: 12,520, Average Start: 15.3, Average Finish: 12.7, DNF: 40