In the midst of the news that has surrounded him the past seven weeks, it’s easy to forget Tony Stewart has been back on the track in his No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.
And while a 14th-place finish at Dover may not seem like much to celebrate, Stewart hailed it as one of his best races this season.
“It hasn’t been a stellar year,” Stewart admitted during his Monday morning media availability, his first full session since the accident that claimed Kevin Ward Jr.’s life on August 9.
“Yesterday was probably the best overall race start to finish, one of the best ones this year. I struggled on restarts, couldn’t get going. But after 10-15 laps we settled into being a top-five race car.
“We put a whole race together. It’s nothing to brag about. But we finally put together a consistent run.”
Asked by the AP’s Jenna Fryer whether Stewart raced better considering he was cleared of charges by the Ontario County District Attorney last week, Stewart said it likely didn’t matter.
“I really don’t know if it does or not,” he said. “At the track on Friday and Saturday, we struggled. Our qualifying was the best we’ve done at Dover in a while, but we struggled in practice and all day Saturday.
“Chad (Johnston, crew chief) and the engineers did a great job and I could tell right off the bat Sunday the car was quite a bit better. I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Stewart admitted that he has struggled to get his mind back around racing, but still, getting back behind the wheel is therapeutic and like second nature.
“We’ve been racing since Atlanta but it hasn’t been business as usual,” he said, again bringing that “business as usual” line back into play. “It’s gonna be a healing processs. It makes you think about a lot of things other than driving race cars. Being back at the race track has helped me more than anything.”