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NASCAR's Tony Stewart drives into Chase for the Cup contention

June 03, 2013|By Jim Peltz
  • Tony Stewart is making his move in the NASCAR standings.
Tony Stewart is making his move in the NASCAR standings. (Geoff Burke / Getty Images )

Tony Stewart has a reputation for starting the season slowly then picking up steam as the weather gets hotter and the tracks get slicker.

But even by Stewart's standards, the three-time champion in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series started particularly poorly this year.

On Sunday, however, Stewart drove himself back into contention for NASCAR's post-season Chase for the Cup playoff with his first win of the year at Dover International Speedway.

Stewart, 42, is 16th in the Cup standings. More importantly, he's the only driver among those 11th to 20th in the points who has a victory.

Twelve drivers qualify for the 10-race Chase -- the top 10 drivers in points after the first 26 races of the season along with two wild-card drivers who have the most victories among those who place 11th to 20th in points.

There's a long way to go; Dover was the 13th race of the season and it's likely Stewart would need at least one more win this summer to make the Chase as a wild card.

But Stewart is headed to some favorable tracks for him in the next three weeks: Pocono and Sonoma, where he's a two-time winner at each track, and Michigan, where he's also won.

Still, Stewart cautioned that the Dover victory didn't immediately turn around the season for his No. 14 Chevrolet or his entire Stewart-Haas Racing team. Its other two drivers, Ryan Newman and rookie Danica Patrick, are 20th and 29th in the standings, respectively.

"We still have a lot of work to do to get it turned around," Stewart said, adding that merely being in the playoff isn't enough of a goal.

"I don't care about being in the Chase unless I have an opportunity to win the championship," he said.

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