NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers see highs and lows throughout the course of a season. More often than not, the glory of the highs is found in shifting from the lows.
Much like the Tideway in England’s famed River Thames, where the tide rises and falls twice a day by up to 24 feet, Tony Stewart has experienced his share of tidal activity in the first five races of 2014. Finishes of 35th, 16th and 33rd to start the season have been offset by back-to-back top-fives, righting his ship as it sails upward in points from 32nd to 17th.
While Stewart contends it’s too soon to say the current has changed course, there is no denying that momentum has swayed in his favor. He plans to stay the course this weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway where he pilots the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Code 3 Associates (www.Code3Associates.org) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization specializing in animal rescue and recovery in disaster areas. The continued operation of Code 3 Associates relies totally on the generosity of donors and bravery of its responders. Increasing awareness of the organization’s mission is the reason for the partnership with SHR. Stewart knows delivering another strong run at Martinsville is the best way to deliver for Code 3 Associates.
Martinsville is a track where Stewart has excelled right from the very start. As a rookie in 1999, he scored his first career Sprint Cup pole at the .526-mile, paperclip-shaped oval in just his eighth career Sprint Cup start. Stewart finished 20th in his Martinsville debut, but soon proved his fast qualifying lap could translate to 500 fast laps. Stewart won the pole in September 2000 in his fourth visit to the track, and then led 179 laps en route to the first of his three Martinsville wins.
The most recent of those victories came in October 2011, which served as the springboard for Stewart’s third Sprint Cup championship.
After starting fourth, Stewart maintained a presence in the top-10 throughout the event and took advantage of a late-race restart, grabbing the lead from Jimmie Johnson and leading the final three laps to take the checkered flag.
In addition to the three wins and three poles, Stewart has nine top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. He has a lap completion rate of 96.3 percent and an average finish of 13.8. He’s led a total of 1,208 laps – third-most among all active Sprint Cup drivers – and has only one DNF (Did Not Finish) in 29 career starts.
While races at Martinsville tend to ebb and flow, Stewart is well-versed in what it takes to ride the tide to great success.