Tony Stewart says he is excited about leading the Sprint Cup driver standings less than a year since he made the announcement that he was set to become an owner in NASCAR's premiere division.
Stewart finished second on Sunday's race at Dover, which marked the halfway point of the regular season, and his strong finish coupled with a tough day for former points' leader Jeff Gordon, allowed him to move to the top of the driver's ranking.
"We're excited about it," said Stewart. "I mean, it's been a dream season for us up to this point, and you hope that you don't wake up tomorrow and all of a sudden realize that we're just getting ready to go to Daytona or something and it's all been a dream to this point. I'm proud of our organization."
Stewart's teammate Ryan Newman finished eighth on Sunday, scoring his fifth consecutive top-10 result, and he currently ranks fifth in the championship.
The two-time Sprint Cup champion is surprised at how quick his team has been able turn into one of the series' top squads, and admits that he didn't think they would be this far after just thirteen races together.
"To get caught up like we had to do through the winter with the personnel changes and updating equipment and everything, you know, it took a lot just to get everything ready like they had it ready for Daytona, let alone to keep it ready and keep us going each week," he added.
"Just proud of our guys. I mean, it's something that we probably all lost bets up to this point that we would be this far along. But it's a good bet to lose, I guess."
Stewart's points lead marks the first time a driver and owner tops the standing since Alan Kulwicki did so in 1992, on his way to become Cup Series champion that year. He says it makes him proud to be compared to one of the sports' legends.
"Everybody respected Alan because he was an owner-driver and what he was able to accomplish," said Stewart. "But I think it was a little bit before I was really a die-hard NASCAR guy. I was still sprint car and midget racing at that point and wasn't able to keep up because we were racing the same days Cup was racing.
"You know, you go through a time and you're able to go back and look at how the history of the sport has evolved and what milestones and moments shaped the sport to what it is. So it's a pretty cool moment to have your organization mentioned with his organization."
Stewart had led the championship for the last time in 2005 when he claimed his second title while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.