It's full speed ahead for Tony Stewart

October, 12, 2010

CONCORD, N.C. -- Tony Stewart was talking about his new sponsorship deal with Mobil 1 on Tuesday when he was asked if the lubricant could have helped him save enough fuel to make it another lap and a half around New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"That's a good question," said Stewart, who uses Quaker State. "In all honesty, I'm sure they probably could. It would have been nice to have that high-tech technology a few weeks ago. The good thing is, if we get in that situation next year, maybe we'll make it."

Arguably the biggest decision in the Chase thus far was crew chief Darian Grubb's call to gamble on fuel in the Chase opener at Loudon.

Had Stewart made it the final two laps and collected the full 190 points for the victory instead of the 96 he got for finishing 24th, the two-time Sprint Cup champion would be 13 points behind Jimmie Johnson instead of 107.

Or if he'd just come in for a splash-and-go and collected a top-10, he would be in a much better situation.

But he didn't, and he's not looking back.

"I still, to this day, stand behind Darian's decision," Stewart said. "I just didn't know how grave the situation was, and I didn't do a good enough job on my part driving the car and saving fuel.

"So it was 100 percent my fault."

Stewart wasn't blowing smoke, no pun intended. Moments before the media conference at Stewart-Haas Racing to introduce Mobil 1, he told everyone in a team meeting "I would rather lose five spots again trying to win the championship than I would saying, 'Hey, this is good enough.' "

Of all the competitors Johnson should fear the most over the final six races, Stewart may be the guy. He's the only driver between his position in fifth and Johnson who has won a title under the Chase format. He understands what it takes and isn't about to panic.

He also has the comfort of knowing his cars are performing as well, maybe better, as any other outside of the 48 camp coming off a win at California and a fourth the week before when he led a race-high 76 laps.

Plus, Stewart is having fun, and anybody who knows him knows he's most dangerous when he's smiling.

"Staying on kill," Stewart said. "Staying on kill."

Stewart has a ways to go. He'll probably need Johnson and the others to have a bad race to truly get back into this thing, so he's not quite in the "here, kitty, kitty" mode we hear over the radio when he's chasing down the leader in a race.

"We'll wait until Homestead for that, hopefully," Stewart said.

Don't be surprised if you do.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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