Monday, Aug 08

The Addington Advantage

Call it the “Addington Advantage”.

In a span of 16 races between 2008 and 2011 – eight at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and eight at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway – crew chief Steve Addington notched four wins, six top-threes, seven top-fives and nine top-10s with two different drivers (Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch), who combined to lead 1,398 laps (1,026 laps led for Kyle Busch, 372 laps led for Kurt Busch). Only three finishes were outside the top-20.

In those same races, Tony Stewart recorded zero wins, two second-place finishes and five top-10 results with 275 laps led. Seven other finishes were outside the top-20.

As the statistics show, Dover and Bristol have proven to be a concrete conundrum for Stewart, as he struggled mightily in comparison at the only two concrete tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit.

Addington, meanwhile, has excelled. His knowledge of Dover’s 1-mile oval and Bristol’s .533-mile bullring helped deliver three wins to Kyle Busch (June 2008 at Dover, March 2009 at Bristol and August 2009 at Bristol) and one win to older brother Kurt Busch (September 2011 at Dover).

In 2012, the “Addington Advantage” is Stewart’s, as the veteran crew chief joined Stewart-Haas Racing and the driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet at the end of the 2011 season.

The pairing has already proven successful. The duo won the non-points Gatorade Duel in February at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and then scored their first point-paying victory in the third race of the Sprint Cup season in March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a second point-paying win two weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

In between those wins was a 14th-place finish at Bristol. While a top-15 is typically nothing to crow about, it was for Stewart, who in his previous trip to Bristol last August qualified next-to-last and finished three laps down in 28th. 

“Normally, 14th isn’t something we’re too happy about, but compared to how we’ve been, I thought we made big gains on it today,” said Stewart afterward, who was poised to finish among the top-10 until an out-of-control Brendan Gaughan tagged him in turn three on lap 479, sending him backward into the SAFER Barrier that lines the outside retaining wall.

“Brendan came down and told me and all of my guys sorry, which we really appreciated,” Stewart said. “He went down into (turn three) and the brake pedal went to the floor. It’s kind of good that I was there to somewhat slow him down a little bit, but at the same time, we had a top-10 run going there, which for the way we’ve run here the last couple trips, it’s a big improvement.”

Now Stewart and Addington head to Dover, site of Sunday’s FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks. Addington plans to pick up where he left off with the Busch Brothers, while Stewart seeks another pick-me-up from Addington, a winner of 18 Sprint Cup races as a crew chief (12 with Kyle Busch, four with Kurt Busch and two with Stewart).

With the “Addington Advantage” in his corner at Dover, expect the Stewart of old – the one who has two wins, which came in 2000 when he swept Dover’s slate of Sprint Cup races, along with three second-place finishes, 10 top-fives, 15 top-10s and a laps-led tally of 1,072 laps in 26 career Sprint Cup starts – to come roaring back.

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