From afterthought to Chase favorite

It has been an incredible run for Tony Stewart, who has risen from the ranks of a competitive afterthought to the driver to beat in the Chase for the Championship.

Two victories in two weeks has much to do with that.

"It's huge," Stewart said after winning in Loudon, N.H., on Sunday after Clint Bowyer ran out of gas on the final lap. "When you talk about momentum, that race car doesn't know anything about momentum. It knows what you put in it, it knows how we drive it. … It doesn't know anything other than just what's put in it.

"Momentum deals with people. It's not just these first two races of the Chase, it was the two weeks leading before it too. We haven't finished outside the top seven now in the last four weeks. That's huge for us."

No question Stewart is living large these days and could be heading to his third Cup title and first since 2005.

Schedule announcement: Look for NASCAR to announce its 2012 schedule Wednesday on A NASCAR official said there would be "some tweaks."

Kenseth's wife injured: Katie Kenseth, the wife of driver Matt Kenseth, suffered a broken scapula and bumps and bruises Monday night after crashing at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a practice session for a charity race next month. She was carried away on a stretcher after crashing into a pit stop wall in a driving school bandolero vehicle.

Katie Kenseth was among wives and girlfriends of NASCAR drivers practicing for the inaugural Better Half Dash on Oct. 15.

"That didn't turn out so well. Katie and I are home. … Thanks for all the well wishes," Matt Kenseth tweeted later in the evening.

Red Bull facing layoffs: More bad news for NASCAR in terms of corporate sponsorships: Red Bull Racing expects to lay off 152 employees when it shuts down its operations in December.

Red Bull — an Austrian-based energy drink company — owns and sponsors the teams for Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers.

Kahne has an easy out, since he will replace Mark Martin at Hendrick Motorsports. Vickers is uncertain where he will end up next season.

George Diaz

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