Tony Stewart will try to get his season on track at Talladega this weekend. (Jerry Markland / Getty Images )
The last time we saw Tony Stewart at Talladega Superspeedway, in October, he was leading on the final lap. Seconds later, his No. 14 Chevrolet was twirling upside down after Stewart triggered a jaw-dropping, 25-car crash.
Now NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series is headed back to the high-banked, 2.66-mile Alabama track for its next race Sunday, and Stewart needs a spark of another kind.
The three-time Cup champion is off to a dismal start this year. Through the first nine races, he has finished in the top 10 only once, an eighth-place finish at Phoenix in early March.
As a result, Stewart is mired in 22nd place in the Cup championship standings, 136 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
Stewart also is only 38 points ahead of Danica Patrick, who's 26th in the standings in her first full Cup season driving for Stewart's team, Stewart-Haas Racing.
The temperamental Stewart, who turns 42 in three weeks, also been frustrated with other drivers at times this year.
He got into a shoving match with Joey Logano after the race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana in March. And last Saturday night, he banged cars with Kurt Busch, and the two exchanged angry words after the race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Stewart could start to turn his season around at Talladega. Despite the crash last fall, Stewart is a former winner at Talladega (in 2008) and he's finished second there six times.
But Talladega is one of two tracks (the other is Daytona) where NASCAR caps the cars' speeds for safety. That bunches the cars together like a freight train, forces drivers to draft with each other to pass and fosters huge crashes like the one in October.
"I'm glad we're halfway decent at" Talladega, Stewart said in notes released by his team, "but it's still always frustrating when you have to rely on what everybody else does."
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