Tony Stewart admits he would never have predicted the resurgence that brought his Stewart-Haas team victory in the Dover NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
The three-time Cup champion has been struggling for form in the early stages of this year's campaign, and between the fourth round at Bristol and the 11th at Darlington never came home higher than 15th. Charlotte brought some light with seventh from 25th on the grid, then last weekend at Dover he surged up the order and ultimately into the lead just three laps from the end.
"Last week was a step in the right direction, and a bigger step than I possibly could have imagined," Stewart said of Charlotte. "This week [Dover] is a step in the right direction; it gives us hope.
"I'll be 100 percent perfectly honest: I was preparing for a very long day. But I'm proud to be sitting here saying that I was very wrong, because this was not a little bit of tweak here, a little bit of tweak there.
"This was going and really sitting down and saying, OK, we may have to abort everything that we are doing to try to come up with a new package."
Although he now sits 16th in the championship, Stewart's Dover win means he currently qualifies for a wild card entry into this year's Chase. He insists, however that properly rectifying his team's issues is far more important than a token offering across the final races.
"I've done this enough and been in the Chase enough that being in [it] is not a novelty for me," he explained.
"To me it's a bigger deal to me to get our program turned around. Our goal is not just to make the Chase; our goal is to be contenders. I would rather miss the Chase and the effort to be in the process of building our program to where we have an opportunity to not just be in the Chase, but have an opportunity to win it.
"I want to get this whole program turned around to where all three drivers go to the racetrack every week and feel like they have an opportunity to have a good result. As much as this is a great win and a great victory for us, and great momentum builder for our organization, one win won't change our direction."