Stewart poised for a wild Chase

Tony Stewart drives the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA...

Tony Stewart drives the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Tex., Nov. 6, 2011. (BRANDON WADE/Getty Images for NASCAR/AFP)

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:45 PM ET

FORT WORTH, TEX. - Tony Stewart has spent the first eight races of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship playing loosey goosey about his No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet teams chances of winning a third title.

But after his fourth win in the 10-race series, Sunday, at Texas Motor Speedway, Stewart got serious as an earthquake.

I didnt think we belonged in the Chase to start with, I didnt think we were a factor, he said.

Now with only this weeks Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway and next weeks Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway to go, Stewart finds himself a mere three points back of Chase leader Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

Stewart said that hes not planning to do anything different in either race than what has already got him to within a field goal of the championship.

We want to be able to run our pace versus trying to make something happen to catch (Edwards), Stewart said. I still stand firm that were not counting on them to make mistakes.

Were controlling our destiny. Were worried about what were doing. Were not worried about what theyre doing. Thats what we intend to do the next two weeks.

What Stewart does believe, is that he has gotten inside of Edwards psyche and he continued with his little jabs at the No. 99 squad in the post-race euphoria at Texas when he pointed out the deficit between the two had gone from eight points to three.

Its theirs to lose now, he taunted. I mean, we did what we said we were going to do ... we took five points off that deficit.

Stewart, of course, does have one huge advantage over Edwards in that he has been to this rodeo before, with two Sprint Cup championships with Joe Gibbs Racing and an IZOD IndyCar championship to his credit before that while Edwards is still looking for his first major championship, although he does have a Nationwide Series title.

The good thing is weve been in this position a lot of times and this isnt the first time weve been in this deal, Stewart said. To me its about going out, getting that championship, doing everything you can to accomplish that goal. Were not a group thats going to sit here obviously and say, Well take the easy road and settle for second.

Id rather finish sixth or seventh in points knowing that we did everything we can to win. Thats what were going to do the next 14 days.

And the 40-year-old from Colombus, Ind., is aware that when the NASCAR travelling circus gets to Phoenix on Friday the slate is clean. There is no carry over from Texas.

When we get to Phoenix, what happened this week and last week are over, and you still got to start that weekend from scratch, he said. I think our group is really good at that. But I think where the momentum carries isnt when you start on Friday, its tonight through Thursday night.

Its the demeanour of the guys, the guys at the shop, how excited they are. When you got them working on your racecar, you want them pumped up and excited about how things are going.

But its back to business on Friday.

Stewart said he is concentrating right now on what his team can do to win it all in the next two weeks. In fact, he said what Edwards does or will do over that span wont change his focus.

Im worried about what were doing, and thats it, he said. I dont care what he does. I didnt care what he did last week. I didnt care what he did this week.

I was worried about the 14 car and thats all.

Like I said, serious as an earthquake.

FINISH LINES

The win by Kevin Harvick in the Kyle Busch-marred Camping World Truck Series at Texas clinched the manufacturers championship for Chevrolet in that series. And Trevor Baynes win Saturday in the Nationwide race made Ford the championship car team there ... With no Toyota drivers in contention to win the Sprint Cup championship this is the first time since 2005 that the Japanese auto giant has been totally shut out in driver and manufacturer championships in NASCARs top 3 series.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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