Stewart Blueprint for a Jumpstart

Give Tony Stewart a pen and a sketchpad and assign him the task of designing the perfect asphalt track for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the blueprint would look a little something like this:

  • · D-shaped oval
  • · Short track, approximately .75-mile in length
  • · Wide, sweeping turns with approximately 14 degrees of banking in each corner
  • · Seating capacity of 90,000 and up

Sound familiar? It should. Those are the specifications for Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, and come Saturday night, it is home to Round No. 9 on the marathon-like Sprint Cup schedule.

Stewart knows those specifications well, as he’s called Richmond his favorite track. With a total of six wins – three in Sprint Cup, two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and one in a Late Model stock car – Richmond beckons Stewart at a time when he could use a boost.

Mired an uncharacteristic 21st in points, Stewart wants – needs – to tap into the 11 top-fives and 19 top-10s he’s recorded in 28 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond, where his 950 laps led ranks Stewart third among active drivers, behind only Jeff Gordon (1,415) and Denny Hamlin (1,390).

Stewart’s fondness for Richmond is obvious. It’s the site of his first career Sprint Cup win. Sept. 11, 1999 was a dominating performance, as Stewart qualified second and led a whopping 333 of the 400 laps. He became the first rookie to win a Sprint Cup race since the late Davey Allison on May 3, 1987 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

That win jumpstarted Stewart’s ascension to NASCAR superstardom. Seven races later, he scored back-to-back victories at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Wins have seemingly bred wins for Stewart, for 18 of his 47 career Sprint Cup victories have come back-to-back. And with at least one win in each of his 14 years in Sprint Cup, Stewart holds the longest winning streak among active Sprint Cup drivers.

With 28 races still remaining this season, and 18 before the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Stewart has ample opportunity to keep his streak going. That it could come at Richmond is certainly possible, despite Stewart’s season to date.

In his last four Sprint Cup races at Richmond, Stewart has finished among the top-10. And in his two visits to Richmond last year, Stewart finished third and fourth, respectively, in the series’ spring and fall stops at the .75-mile oval. In addition to that history, Stewart will bring a new racecar – one that could be emblematic of the clean slate Richmond offers.

The beauty of the Sprint Cup schedule, which stretches from mid-February to late-November to form the longest calendar in all of sports, is that there is a bevy of opportunity. For Stewart, his team and that new No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, Richmond provides their next-best opportunity to right their ship and set sail for their annual autumn destination – the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.