Tony Stewart is a notoriously slow starter in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. But this year, “Smoke” has yet to ignite in a good way.
The Stewart Haas Racing co-owner enters Darlington just 22nd in the standings, 56 points outside the top 10 and with just one top-10 finish in the first 10 races of the season.
In the same interview he told the Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin that he supports Kurt Busch’s IndyCar test for Andretti Autosport at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stewart conceded he needs to think about winning races to have a shot to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“We’re going to need some help to get (to the Chase),” he admitted. “Some guys in front of us are going to have to have some bad luck. If I felt our cars were really good but we’d had back luck I’d feel a lot more confident right now. But we’re struggling to find what these cars want. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Stewart isn’t alone in the “needs a top-10 finish” department. Others in the field with just one include Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Talladega 1-2 finishers David Ragan and David Gilliland, and four drivers with underfunded teams (JJ Yeley, Michael Waltrip, Michael McDowell, Scott Speed).
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has yet to score a top-10 finish this year but still ranks a respectable 16th in points for Roush Fenway Racing.
Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.