HOMESTEAD, Fla. – As usual, Tony Stewart didn’t mince his words.
He’s ready for NASCAR’s 2007 season to end.
Not even a year with three victories and 23 top-10 finishes were enough to satisfy Stewart, a two-time series champion. With a little luck in Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he could finish as high as fourth in the seasonlong Chase for the Nextel Cup standings.
But instead, he’s entering the final race lamenting what might have been.
“We’re obviously not in the position we want to be in this time of year,” Stewart said. “The only way to get to the next chapter is to start the next chapter. You do that by ending this year and getting to next year.”
Stewart was second in the Chase – two points off the lead – after the Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover in late September. A wreck at Kansas the next week led to a 39th-place finish there, a two-spot slide in the Chase standings, and he never really recovered.
Chalk it up to a run of bad luck, Stewart said.
“I’ve never seen us have some of the stupid things that have happened this year,” he said. “Some of them have been self-inflicted. I’ve been speeding on pit lane twice this year. That’s something, I mean, I haven’t sped twice in eight years. I made the mistake. It was just little things here and there this year.”
Like just about every other NASCAR driver, Stewart has two simple goals for Sunday.
Stewart, the 2002 and 2005 NASCAR champion, said he and the other 41 drivers in Sunday’s race know the stakes are huge for Johnson and Gordon, the last two contenders in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
And no one wants to be the guy who knocks either of those drivers from the race early.
“We want them to decide it on their own, not us decide it for them,” Stewart said. “Doesn’t mean that we’re not going to try to win the race because, I can promise you, that’s the best way to go through the offseason is by winning the last race of the season.”
Johnson has won four straight races and needs to finish only 18th or better to eliminate whatever chance Gordon has of capturing his fifth title.
“I think it’s impressive,” Stewart said. “I don’t think there’s anything that’s bad about it.”