Stewart: Track position critical, but “not absolutely everything” at Indy

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After winning a well-received pole for tomorrow’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ryan Newman said that track position will be more important than ever before at Indianapolis. But his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and boss Tony Stewart had a slightly different take on the subject.

“This is one of those tracks where track position is important, but it’s not absolutely everything,” said Stewart, who will start fifth tomorrow and looks to add a third Brickyard 400 crown to his resume.

Stewart can make that argument pretty convincingly. Both of his Brickyard wins had him starting outside the Top 10 – 22nd in 2005 and 14th in 2007.

“You have got to have a car you can race with,” he continued. “If you can get it to qualify well, normally it will race well too. Just having a car that is balanced is the biggest thing.”

But this year, he won’t have to deal with too much traffic at the drop of the green flag thanks in part to some tweaks made to his No. 14 SHR Chevrolet between this morning’s final practice and the afternoon qualifying session.

“I feel like we have a car we can race with tomorrow,” said Stewart. “So far, so good. I am really, really happy with the changes that [crew chief] Steve Addington and our guys made between ‘Happy Hour’ and qualifying. It gives us a good idea what we need to do for the race because that is exactly what we were working on during practice.”

All things considered, Stewart expects to be a threat once again at the track he loves more than any other.

“I think we have a pretty good shot at this thing tomorrow,” he said. “There’s about 10 really good cars right now in the field. I feel like we are right there in the hunt. We just have to put the whole day together tomorrow.”

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.