FONTANA, Calif. – Two-time series champion Tony Stewart was feeling a lot more secure at California Speedway this time around.
Last year, Stewart left Fontana in a tenuous eighth place in the Chase standings. The following week at Richmond – the last race before the 10-race Chase – he crashed in practice and wound up finishing 18th in a backup car.
That dropped him to 11th, 16 points behind 10th-place Kasey Kahne, so he missed the then-10-man Chase.
Stewart headed into Sunday’s Sharp Aquos 500 at Fontana second behind Jeff Gordon in the standings, solidly in with this year’s field for the Chase expanded to the top 12. The most important thing for Stewart and the other drivers already in the Chase is going for wins, which this year are worth a 10-point bonus for seeding purposes at the start of the stock car playoff.
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“It’s nice coming here and knowing that if it comes down to a fuel mileage race this weekend that we can take a chance like we did at Kansas City and go for those 10 points, versus not being locked in like we were last year and fighting at this time,” Stewart said.
“So it’s definitely taken a lot of the stress and the pressure off, for sure.”
Out of the Chase last October at Kansas Speedway, Stewart was able to gamble on fuel and ran out of gas on the final lap – but coasted across the finish line to win.