After seven races, Tony Stewart sits in an uncharacteristic 22nd place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, 111 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. He's hoping a return to his native Midwest this week in Kansas will help kick-start his 2013 campaign.
Stewart is one of only nine drivers who have started all 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kansas, and he has won there three times. Outside of two back-of-the-pack finishes in 2007 and 2009 he has never finished lower than 15th. He has six top-five and nine top-10 finishes.
The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has had a rough start to the 2013 season with four finishes 21st or lower. His best finish so far came in the second race when he placed eighth.
A strong showing at Kansas could provide the spark to ignite Stewart's season, and nothing would do that more than a dominating performance that lands him in Victory Lane. Stewart, however, usually starts seasons off slowly, though usually not this slow, only to get rolling during the summer months and on into the fall.
Competing in NASCAR, however, isn't Stewart's only outlet for motorsports competition. He's very active in other series, including Sprint Cars and World of Outlaws (ABOVE), and by the end of the year he could race in nearly 100 events. In fact, he feels running Sprint Cars helps him in NASCAR.
"I think [running Spring Cars] helps on the restarts, for sure," said Stewart, who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing, owns Eldora Speedway in Ohio and will head to Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway – a track he co-owns with two others – Friday night after Sprint Cup practice and qualifying to race in the World of Outlaws feature event. "I'm definitely more aggressive on the restarts.
"In Sprint Car racing, you have to get a lot done at the start and on restarts, and I think that part has really been a positive and really been a help in making me more aggressive."
Perhaps all the time spent in the seat of racecars in other series will indeed pay off for Stewart and help him adjust quicker to the new Gen-6 car. He believes the biggest challenge that he and his team have faced so far this season is just learning about the new car and finding a setup that works.