Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
2015 was supposed to be a bounce-back year for Tony Stewart and the No. 14 team. After missing the chase in 2013 and 2014 and after finally having a healed leg; this season brought with it high hopes for Stewart. Three races into the season and things have not gotten off to the start that Stewart and his fans might have been hoping for. Heading into the fourth race of the season Stewart is outside of the top-30 in the point standings and his best finish of the season was 30th in Atlanta.
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Stewart has been vocal this season about his dislike for the new rules package that NASCAR debuted this season. As a result many fans have pointed to the new rules package as one of the main reasons for Stewart’s slow start. To this point I would say that’s a little ridiculous. While I agree that Stewart might not like the package, he is a three-time NASCAR champion and one of the most accomplished drivers in the sport. A driver with Stewart’s talent isn’t going to be derailed by a new rules package.
Instead, I believe that Stewart’s struggles are based on what he is no longer doing and that is racing Sprint Cars.
Stewart has one passion in this world and that is racing. Stewart’s passion to race and be around tracks is evident in the fact that he used to race three or four times a week depending on his schedule. He has even begun purchasing race tracks to further feed his passion for racing. Since the leg injury and then the Kevin Ward Jr. incident, Stewart has slowed and now completely stopped racing outside of NASCAR. For a driver with the passion and love of racing that Stewart has it would only make sense for such a change to impact him on the track.
Look at Kyle Busch for example. A few years ago Busch who runs as many Xfinity and Truck Series races as possible was asked by Joe Gibbs Racing to pull back a bit and focus more on the Sprint Cup Series. The result of that was Busch having one of the worst Sprint Cup Series seasons of his career. For drivers like Stewart and Busch driving in other series and other cars is part of who they are. When you have a good night in a Sprint Cup car on a Friday or Saturday night you carry that feeling over on Sunday in NASCAR. When Busch sweeps the Xfinity and Truck races heading into a Sprint Cup Series race it only makes sense that his confidence is going to be at an all-time high.
Often times you hear that NASCAR drivers are creatures of habit. For years and years Stewart has been in a routine of racing multiple times a week and having success while doing that. Since the injury and the Ward Jr. accident Stewart’s sense of normalcy has changed. It’s more than understandable as to why Stewart would not run Sprint Cup cars again but it would also be foolish to ignore the impact that not running them could have. I’m not saying that Stewart is going to win a championship this season if he starts racing multiple times a week once again. However, I would lay odds that Stewart’s season would change in a positive way if he did.