Tony Stewart says he is ecstatic about his team being in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with both of the squad's drivers challenging for the title in Stewart Haas' debut season.
Stewart has led the championship for 13 weeks this year, although he has just recently slipped to second place once the Chase points system was applied to the standings.
Not only Stewart has a shot to the title in his first year as a team owner in NASCAR's top series, but also his teammate Ryan Newman, who despite not winning this year, is just 30 points off him in the Chase heading into the first of the final ten races.
"We didn't really set expectations," said Stewart about Stewart Haas Racing's goals for its debut year. "We literally said that we were going to go one week at a time and evaluate what happened on Sunday when we sat down on Monday. Trying to figure out what we did right, what we did wrong and what we could do to make it better and see where it took us at the end of the year.
"I'm happy. The whole organization is ecstatic to have both of these cars in the Chase and so is [former owner] Gene Haas and Joe Custer. That in itself has made it a good year so far."
Despite leading the championship up until last week, Stewart will not start the Chase with the best of momentum. He has failed to finish in the top ten for the past four weeks after previously running a streak of ten consecutive races with a worst result of 10th at Pocono, the scene of his first 2009 earlier in the season.
Stewart believes his team needs to get back to top form in order to remain in contention for the title during the Chase, something he is adamant that it is capable of.
"For us, it is a situation where I don't think we kept the intensity up quite as high as we needed to," said Stewart. "The good thing is that we have all sat and met each other this week and said 'Hey, it is game time again.'
"The good thing is that even though we didn't really have a stellar four weeks, we have had a break and it has given us a chance to kind of catch our breath and get ready for this last 10-week stretch whereas some guys have been fighting all the way through last week. I feel like we are ready to go."
The double champion says his team does not need to do more than what it has done for the past 26 weeks now that it is in the Chase. Stewart is the only driver to have won the title both in and prior to the play-off format.
"I think now everybody does the same thing that got them [in the Chase]," said Stewart about the final ten races. "If you say we're amping it up this week it means for the first 26 weeks we were all just cruising around here and weren't working hard.
"I'm pretty sure that everybody was amped up as they could be for the first 26 weeks and it will stay that way for the last 10."
Stewart's team-mate Ryan Newman starts the Chase from 10th in the standings. The squad is one of three that have multiple drivers in the series' playoff.