LOUDON, N.H. – Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman made their first stop in New Hampshire a race to remember.
1-2 start. 1-2 finish.
Do it again this weekend and there’s little doubt the Stewart-Haas Racing teammates will solidify themselves as two of the drivers to beat in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Each Chase weekend the number of true contenders seems to shrink by a driver or two. Stewart and Newman are both back at one of their strongest tracks and both are coming off outstanding finishes in the Chase opener to position themselves in the thick of the hunt.
Stewart, a two-time Cup champion, had tried to tell anyone who would listen he wasn’t a contender for this year’s championship. He called this season “a miserable year,” even though “Smoke” qualified for the Chase and had three top-10s in the final four races leading up to the 10-race playoff.
Even if his confidence sagged, his team kept the faith.
He opened the Chase with a sensational run at Chicagoland Speedway and won his first race of the season.
So much for not being a contender.
“We’ve got a group of guys that no matter how bad it’s been this year and how low I’ve got with it, they’ve never given up,” Stewart said Friday. “They’ve never quit. It defines our organization as far as what our group of people are capable of and they fight to the end.
“Last week was a situation that showed that no matter how bad our year has been, this team is not going to give up and this organization’s not giving up.”
Stewart shot to second place in the points standings and is a measly seven points behind leader Kevin Harvick. Newman was eighth last week and his seventh-place spot in the standings has him only 14 points out of first.
Newman wins pole
Ryan Newman was the last car out and the fastest on the track, turning a lap of 135.002 mph to win the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Red Bull Racing drivers Kasey Kahne was second and Brian Vickers was third. Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch round out the top five.