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Tony Stewart knows how it feels to sit at the head table at the Waldorf in November, having done so after claiming the 2002 Winston Cup Championship. But in the two years since, Stewart has struggled to reestablish championship form and retake that prime table, finishing seventh and sixth in 2003 and 2004 championships, respectively.
The year that Stewart took home the championship, his Home Depot team earned four poles, 21 top-10s, 15 top-fives and three victories. And while he did earn two wins in each of the two seasons since, Stewart and his team have had to face some stiff competition and some bad luck.
Last season, when the “Chase for the Championship” began at New Hampshire, Stewart was determined to make a statement and a serious run at the championship. However, he suffered a major setback in the first race, after getting caught up in an accident that left him with a 39th place finish and knocking him from fourth to eighth in the standings.
Following the next race, although he finished sixth, Stewart fell to ninth. And while he rebounded with sixth top-five finishes, unfortunately, his Chase competitors were usually one step ahead of him, and Stewart could only improve to sixth in the final standings, 180 points out of the championship.
Unfortunately for Stewart, the competition in 2005 looks to be even stronger than in years past, and Stewart could find he will fall short yet again. We expect Stewart to remain a contender for the championship for most of the season, but in the end, we look for him to finish sixth in the championship yet again. But luckily for Stewart, we aren’t known for our spot-on predictions.
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