After 15 years in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, there isn’t much that Tony Stewart has yet to accomplish.
But the three-time Cup champion has never been able to defeat Darlington Raceway. It’s one of two active Cup tracks where he’s never won – the other being Kentucky Speedway, which has only been hosting Cup races since 2011.
Now, Stewart does have a Nationwide Series win in 2008 at Darlington to his credit, and it’s not like he hasn’t come close to a Darlington victory in his Cup career – he’s earned four Top-5s and 11 Top-10s.
But as a guy that certainly values history – his undying love for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his ownership of the fabled Eldora Speedway can attest to that – Stewart definitely wants a Cup trophy from one of NASCAR’s most hallowed and challenging tracks.
“As much as we know about the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I think people underestimate how much we know about Darlington and the history of that track, and how hard it is to win races there,” he said in a release.
“I guess that’s why a Sprint Cup win at Darlington is something that’s really important to me.”
Stewart appears to have found his stride as he returns to form after his season-ending leg injury last summer, with two Top-5s and three Top-10s in his last four races.
Last weekend at Texas, Stewart earned his first pole since the 2012 season and converted it into a 10th place result. But he remains one of several big names who have yet to visit Victory Lane in a year that’s started with seven different winners in as many races.
Qualifying could be the key for Stewart to finally capture a Cup checkered flag at Darlington. An eye-popping 95 of the 110 Sprint Cup races that have been run on the South Carolina oval have been won from a Top-10 starting position.
Stewart’s average Cup starting position at Darlington? 17.2.
MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Ryan Briscoe. Despite not having a ride to start the year, Briscoe ended strongly courtesy of a series of strong runs at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Ryan Briscoe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
- 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 18th Place (8 starts), Best Finish 5th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 17.8 Avg. Start, 12.0 Avg. Finish
For those who slag on Briscoe as being undeserving of top level equipment, his 2015 second half provided a friendly reminder of his overall ability level in what might be less than the best machinery.
Briscoe was thrust into the No. 5 car under trying circumstances to begin with, getting all of an hour’s worth practice replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe ahead of the Indianapolis 500. But subsequent drives on the ovals there, Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Iowa – even if the results were less than ideal – showcased a driver determined to show to the paddock he still had it, and then some. His defense against Juan Pablo Montoya in Sonoma was nothing short of brilliant, and courtesy of double points he actually finished ahead of full-season driver Stefano Coletti.
The Australian immediately gelled with the SPM team, engineer Allen McDonald and race strategist Robert Gue. He continues to prove he’s an asset, as he has enjoyed multiple opportunities to extend his career in various arenas of motorsport in both open-wheel and sports cars, the latter of which he won at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing this year.
Following an early retirement for Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton has closed even more on his third Formula 1 World Championship.
View it above in the race recap from the 2015 Russian Grand Prix.