Thirty-six point-paying events lasting two to three days at 23 venues across the United States are packed into a 10-month span beginning in mid-February and carrying through the penultimate weekend of November. It’s a challenge that has yielded only seven different Sprint Cup champions in the last 14 years when the schedule expanded to its current 36-race slate in 2001.
The Sprint Cup schedule is a true test of a champion, for it emphasizes resolve, tenacity, fortitude and, above all, perseverance. Three times Stewart has earned champion status (2002, 2005 and 2011), and in each of those title runs, there was plenty of adversity to overcome.
Adversity has found Stewart early in 2015, and it is also proving to be tenacious. It has a tight hold on Stewart because four races into his 2015 campaign, the veteran racer finds himself an uncharacteristic 36th in points with a 30th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway being his best result.
While the duration of the Sprint Cup season can be taxing, the sheer number of its events provides opportunity. Even with four races in the books, 32 races remain. And the 22 races that still exist between now and the cutoff for the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is still two more races than the entire Formula One schedule, six more races than the whole IndyCar Series schedule and 12 more races than the Tudor United SportsCar Championship.
Stewart has been dogged by bad fortune, but there are many more hands to be dealt. It’s why he’ll keep on truckin’ this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, site of Sunday’s Auto Club 400. It’s appropriate, as Stewart will pilot the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/
Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
A subsidiary of Rush Enterprises, Inc., Rush Truck Centers is the premier service solutions provider to the commercial vehicle industry and the United States’ largest network of truck and bus dealerships, representing industry-leading brands. With more than 100 vehicle centers strategically located in high-traffic areas or near major highways, Rush Truck Centers operate as one-stop centers offering an integrated approach to the needs of its customers.
As a partner of SHR since 2010, Rush Truck Centers has played an integral role in getting the team’s racecars to and from the track. The relationship evolved and the company signed on to be the primary sponsor for Stewart at three events in 2013. In 2015, Rush Truck Centers serves as a primary sponsor of Stewart and the No. 14 team for five races, with the Auto Club 400 serving as its kickoff.
In last year’s race at Fontana where the No. 14 machine carried the colors of Rush Truck Centers, Stewart finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five at the 2-mile oval, and it augmented his two victories, 13 top-10s and 332 laps led in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at Fontana.
A strong finish like that is all Stewart wants after the first two legs of NASCAR’s “Western Swing” through Las Vegas and Phoenix left him reeling. It will be a long haul to climb back up the point standings, but for someone representing Rush Truck Centers, the long haul is a way of life.
The Sprint Cup schedule has been Stewart’s way of life for 17 years, and beyond the three championships he’s earned in that span are 48 point-paying wins, 15 poles, 182 top-fives and 297 top-10s with 12,759 laps led.
Fontana has been a key contributor to those numbers, especially recently, as Stewart has finished among the top-10 seven times in his last 10 races at Auto Club Speedway.
Despite his start to the season, Stewart expects to add to those numbers come Sunday. And the only way to get there is the only way he knows how – to keep on truckin’.