“Smoke” rises to occasion with big Dover triumph

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Tony Stewart had been soldiering through a dismal Sprint Cup season, and he figured that he was going to soldier through a trying Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

“Yesterday when we finished [final practice], I’ll be 100 percent perfectly honest…I was preparing for a very long day today,” said Stewart, who entered the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks in 20th place in the standings.

“I wasn’t prepared to be sitting here…I honestly didn’t think we could get there from where we ended up [in final practice] yesterday. But I’m proud to be sitting here saying that I was very wrong and happy that I was wrong.”

Stewart had finished no better than 20th in his last four races at the “Monster Mile,” but found himself in a position to battle for the win after Jimmie Johnson was penalized for jumping the final restart of the day with 19 laps to go.

That left Juan Pablo Montoya in the lead, but Stewart charged toward the Colombian and with three laps left, he passed him on the outside and went on to his first victory of the season.

See what happens when you keep battling?

“There’s been a lot of dejected guys all year, and disappointed guys all year, but that’s why we want them working at Stewart‑Haas Racing, too, because the way we have been running, we want them to be disappointed and dejected,” said Stewart of his team’s trying 2013 campaign.

“But nobody is walking around with their heads down. They are all trying to find a solution and that’s what makes days like today so special, when you have guys that just do not quit and they refuse to give up.”

With one bright day, the year has changed for the three-time Cup champion. He jumped four spots in the standings to 16th, but more importantly, his win now puts him in the discussion for a possible wild-card berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The two drivers between 11th and 20th in the championship that have the most wins get those particular spots, and as of now, he’s the only one in that bracket with a win. Of course, Stewart wants more than that. He’d much rather be solidly in the Top 10 and also help his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick turn their own efforts around as well.

“We realize that this could put [my team] in contention and make the Chase – that’s not good enough,” he said. “I want to get this whole program turned around to where all three drivers have a feeling and an opportunity to go to the racetrack every week and feeling like they have an opportunity to go out and have a good result at the end of the day.”

Nevertheless, “Smoke” has some momentum on his side with a Top-10 result at Charlotte last weekend and now a win in his pocket in Delaware. Perhaps he and Stewart-Haas Racing are ready to make a run as the summer comes along once again.

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points