Tony Stewart‘s impressive comeback continued this weekend at New Hampshire as he captured a second-place finish in Sunday’s New Hampshire 301.
Stewart started the day 12th and spent a good portion of the race outside the top 10. But, as the race progressed, ‘Smoke’ continued to make his way through the field and steered clear of any late race trouble, keeping the No.14 Haas Automation Chevy clean.
“We took a chance at the beginning, and the plan was to take two on the first stop, and it really bit us. We got back to about 22nd, I think, and from then on it was just kind of fighting our way back,” said Stewart post-race. “Nobody really took two until, I don’t know, late in the race there were guys — I guess when Denny stayed out, and a bunch of guys in front of us took two tires, and the 22 and 78 and us I think were the ones on four or something like that. We were able to start picking our way through there, and that was really good.”
With the finish in sight, Stewart would show his strength by quickly moving from sixth to third on the final restart, and then pass by Joey Logano with two laps to get to second.
Stewart credited the strong finish to rookie crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz and all of the work he put in throughout the weekend.
“Yeah, we had a much better Haas Automation Chevy today than what we had yesterday. Buga [Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief] did a really good job. I went off and went to Eldora for the King’s Royal last night. He kept sending me a couple of texts, he was working as late here as I was working late at Eldora. It really paid off.” said Stewart.
Stewart’s runner-up finish served as yet another example for his return to form since injuring his back during the offseason. The three-time Sprint Cup champion says his team’s confidence is only growing as they begin to pick up steam midway through summer.
“I feel like we are getting better each week now. Buga is doing a great job on the box. You can see the confidence not only in him, but all the guys on the team. Our Chevys are fast right now, I feel like we are gaining on it.” said Stewart. “What we said, I don’t know when we said it, we were talking about you crawl before you walk, walk before you run, run before you jog, and jog before you sprint. We are definitely running right now. I feel like we are getting pretty close to this sprint at the end.”
More importantly, the runner-up finish now places the Stewart 67 points ahead of 31st in the driver standings putting himself in even better position to make the Chase in September.
Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist
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