The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Tony Stewart by Jeff Wolfe -- Wednesday January 8, 2014

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Tony Stewart

Jeff Wolfe · Wednesday January 8, 2014

 

2013 Ride: No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

2013 Primary Sponsor(s): Bass Pro Shops (18 races), Mobil 1 (11 races), Rush Truck Centers (3 races)

2013 Owner(s): Tony Stewart, Gene Haas, Joe Custer

2013 Crew Chief: Steve Addington

Stats: 21 races, 5 Top 5s, 8 Top 10s, 114 laps led, 29th in points.
Average Start: 16.0.
Average Finish: 16.1.

Tony Stewart

Best Finish: 1st – FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks 400 at Dover (June 2).

2013 Team Ranking: 3rd out of 3. Stewart’s year would have been better, ranking ahead of at least rookie teammate Danica Patrick if not for his season-ending leg injury.

High Point: This was an easy one as Stewart passed Juan Pablo Montoya in the final laps to win his only race of the year at Dover. Stewart has now won a race in each of his 14 seasons in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. The win at Dover appeared to put Stewart on the map as a title contender again, especially as the Stewart-Haas team had struggled a bit coming into Dover. It was also one of the best races of the year to watch, one of the few times that a race was won with a pass in the final five laps, excluding the restrictor plate races. It was quite a celebration that day at Dover for Stewart and his crew, which had every right to think maybe they had broken through. Little did they know a bad break for Stewart and the team was yet to come.

Low Point: It without question came not in a Sprint Cup race but a sprint car race. It was in August when Stewart broke his leg in a sprint car accident in Iowa. The break was severe enough that Stewart had no chance to return for the 2013 season ending any chance of even competing for the Sprint Cup title. Stewart eventually needed three surgeries on the leg, but recent reports have been that his rehab is going well and he expects to be ready for the 2014 Daytona 500, even though he’s not able to participate in the preseason testing at Daytona this week.

Summary: Stewart was not on a major roll when he broke his leg, so it would be a stretch to say the broken leg cost him a championship. However, too, Stewart reminded everyone of how he can get a major roll at the right time when he won his third title in 2011 by winning five of the 10 races in the Chase for the Championship. So, you never know. Once Stewart was cleared to be out and about he was a regular at the track on weekends, playing his role of owner quite well. And really, that wasn’t a surprise as the Columbus, Ind., native probably had a pretty difficult time not being at a race track on a weekend. He’s been spending weekends at race tracks pretty much his entire life. Stewart did receive some criticism for racing sprint cars and putting his Sprint Cup team and ride in jeopardy. And for sure, at this stage, Stewart understands the big business side of being in NASCAR. But he’s also still a racer at heart, and it’s hard to imagine he won’t jump back in a sprint car and drive on the dirt he loves to race on so much at least a few times in the summer of 2014.

2014 Outlook: All signs indicate that Stewart will be healthy enough to race at Daytona and for the championship in 2014. There will be some who doubt that he can compete for the title as a driver this season as he is returning from the injury, is adding a fourth team to the Stewart-Haas entry in Kurt Busch, adding a new driver in replacing Ryan Newman with Kevin Harvick, and also will have a new crew chief in 2014 in Chad Johnston. However, Stewart’s career shows that he seems to thrive in such situations. He’s made a career and a ton of money proving people wrong with his talent on the race track. It would certainly be no surprise if he did it again. And if you’re into looking for some kind of sign for Stewart to win this year there are actually a couple. First, his two Sprint Cup car numbers have been 20 and 14, so you know, this is 2014. And then, too, Stewart won his first title in 2002, his second in 2005, and third in 2011. So, he could continue the pattern of winning a title every year third, then six years later, and then the third year again if it happens in 2014.

2013 Frontstretch.com Grade: Incomplete due to injury.

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