Tony Stewart knows the Indianapolis Motor Speedway very well. Not only has he won the Brickyard 400 twice, but the Indiana native also raced in the Indianapolis 500 multiple times. With that experience comes a great deal of knowledge about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and how stock cars drive on the track.
Throughout the week, almost every driver commented on how hard it would be to pass and move up through the field come Sunday. The track does not allow for easy passing and the farther back a driver falls the more dirty air effects their ability to move up in the pack. Simply put, falling behind at the Brickyard leads to a snowball effect that most drivers are unable to overcome.
For these reasons, starting position is vastly important at IMS, in fact it is probably as important as any other track in the Sprint Cup series. As you can imagine, Tony Stewart was not too pleased about qualifying twenty eighth on Saturday, putting him in an almost impossible situation to get a win in his home state.
"Normally if you're in the middle of the pack it's because your car isn't driving very good, so it's going to be a long day tomorrow," said Stewart after his disappointing qualifying run.
For someone who has Smoke's racing credentials, a tenth place finish is nothing to throw a party over. Tony Stewart is about winning and when he fails to win there won't be many smiles and congratulatory hugs.
"We shouldn't have been in the hole we were in to start with, so we obviously need to do a better job of starting the weekend off better," he said. Stewart was not happy with his car on Saturday or Sunday, but felt consistency was the main issue that led to his poor qualifying position. "At least it was somewhat consistent today, yesterday there was no consistency to the car from lap to lap," he said. During the race, Stewart felt the "exit was a little bit tight and the center of the corner was really tight, but at least it did the same thing lap after lap. If you can make it do one thing over and over, then you can start working on it and making adjustments, so it was a lot better race car today."
When put into perspective, Sunday was very successful for Stewart and the 14 Office Depot team. Despite the extremely tough passing conditions, Stewart moved up 18 spots and secured a top ten finish. Smoke may not celebrate, but he knows the best was made of a bad situation. "I'm proud of the effort [the team] put forth last night to get us here," he said.
Despite leaving Indianapolis without a victory, Tony Stewart sees himself in eighth place in the overall standings. There may not be a celebration at the 14 hauler, but it could have been much worse.