NASCAR: Haas-Stewart off to good start
FONTANA, Calif. ó Tony Stewart doesn’t usually hit high gear until the summer, when the temperatures are hot enough to melt rubber. Ryan Newman has a similar track record.
This season, they’re trying something new: running up front from the start.
Typically slow starters, Stewart and Newman are ahead of schedule through the first four races this season, tied for third in the Sprint Cup series standings with 138 points each, 12 behind leader Kurt Busch.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Stewart said Friday before qualifying at Auto Club Speedway. “I don’t know if you can look at it as a telltale sign of what our season’s going to be like, but it’s always nice to get off to a good start. You don’t feel like you’re playing catch up right off the bat.”
If it hadn’t been for bad luck at Daytona, they’d be even better off.
Stewart was sitting second in what would be the final restart, seemingly in great position to end his 0-for-12 streak at The Great American Race. Instead, he couldn’t link up with Martin ó a necessity after Daytona’s repaving ó and ended up 13th.
Newman had a good run going at Daytona, leading 37 laps, but was taken out on a late-race wreck with David Ragan on a restart
The Daytona disappointment didn’t carry over.
Stewart struggled in qualifying to start 18th the next week at Phoenix, but ended up leading 59 laps and finished seventh. Next race in Las Vegas, Stewart had the best car all day, leading a race-high 163 laps, but had a pit mishap ó he left the pits with the air hose still attached ó that ultimately quashed his chances.
Stewart was 22nd after his last pit stop, but still ended up finishing second behind Carl Edwards.
Even a poor-handling car and a 19th at Bristol wasn’t enough to slow Stewart’s early momentum. He’s led a series-high 222 laps.