With Chase hopes over, rest of season a chance for Tony Stewart to race with reduced spotlight

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Needing a win to make it into the 2014 Chase, Tony Stewart came up short Saturday night at the Federated Auto Parts 400. He ran quietly but consistently to a 15th-place finish at Richmond.

A potential top-10 was thwarted by a miscue on the No. 14 team’s final pit stop. With a missing lug nut on the left rear, Stewart needed to return to the pits a lap later and restarted 15th, where he ultimately finished.

Still, making the Chase was always going to be secondary to resuming on track in his second straight week after returning at Atlanta, and trying to get some semblance of normality back in his life after one of the most trying months of his life in August.

As the rest of the NASCAR season continues, it’s probably for the benefit of the sport – this time around anyway – that Stewart, the driver, isn’t in the Chase.

The investigation into what happened in New York, when Stewart’s car struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., is still ongoing.

Stewart made his first and thus far only public comments upon his return to Atlanta a week ago, and appeared genuinely remorseful and shook up by the experience.

If he was in the Chase, chances are the magnitude of the story could overwhelm the focus on the on-track product; there, Stewart-Haas Racing still has two drivers vying for a championship anyway in Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

The story will still linger until a further resolution or news comes from the Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Office.

But from an on-track perspective, Stewart can go about his business relatively quietly for the final 10 races, without the added pressure of trying to race for a title, and without the scrutiny that could follow him if he was to do well in the Chase.

If he wins a race in the final 10, that will be a new and different story unto itself.

For a driver who usually stars in the spotlight, avoiding it for the rest of the season by missing the Chase may well be a good thing given the outstanding circumstances.

Supercross reveals 2023 Daytona track designed by Ricky Carmichael for 16th time

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For the 16th consecutive year, Ricky Carmichael has designed a signature course for the Daytona Supercross race, which will be March 4, 2023.

Eli Tomac took advantage of a last lap mistake by Cooper Webb last year to win a record setting sixth Daytona race – and with that win, he broke out of a tie Carmichael.

Construction on the course will begin two days after the completion of the 65th running of NASCAR’s Daytona 500 when haulers start to unload 7,200 tons of dirt onto the grassy infield in order to create a course 3,300 feet long.

“Ricky has designed yet another incredible course for this year’s Daytona Supercross,” said Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher in a press release. “We’re thrilled to unveil it to the fans, and we can’t wait for them to come out to the track and see it in person.”

MORE: Designs for SuperMotocross finals at zMax Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway

Carmichael’s Daytona course will take center stage for Round 8 of the 17-race Supercross season and the 31-race SuperMotocross season.

The Supercross race coincides with Daytona’s Bike Week, which runs from March 3-12 and includes races from the American Flat Track series and the legendary Daytona 200 speedway race that is contested on the infield road course.

Last year’s course was reported to have 57 obstacles including the return of an over-under bridge. For 2023 the number of obstacles listed in 42, but that will not keep this from being one of the toughest tracks on which the Monster Energy Supercross series will race.

Many of the same elements from last year will be present including sharp turns, vaulted jumps, sand sections and a finish line that aligns with the oval tracks’ start/finish line.

“This year’s Daytona Supercross design is one of the best,” Carmichael said. “It races great for the riders – it’s safe yet challenging and it’s very similar to last year with the split lanes. Daytona is the toughest, gnarliest race on the Supercross circuit, but it’s the most special to win.

“This track is going to produce great racing and I think the riders are going to put on a fantastic display for all our fans.”

While Tomac has dominated this race during his career, Daytona has also been the site of some other dramatic victories. In 2021 Aaron Plessinger scored his first career Supercross podium in 35 starts with a win there and reversed a three-year streak of bad luck on the track.

The Daytona Supercross race is the first of two the series will contest on speedway infield courses. A little more than one month later, Atlanta Motor Speedway will enter their third season as a supercross venue. These two courses will serve as an early test for the SuperMotocross three-race finale that begins September 9, 2023 at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The three playoff races will each be held on courses that contain elements of Supercross and Motocross, much like Daytona and Atlanta.