In a season that has given the No. 14 team little reason to celebrate, Tony Stewart clinched his best starting position of the year for the upcoming Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was the fastest in the first round of qualifying but had to settle for a spot on the second row, qualifying fourth in the final round.
Stewart called the first round qualifying effort “a moral victory if nothing else, for us and the team. It’s been a rough season so far, so this is a great way to come to your home track and I wish this was the second round, not the first round. But at least we’re locked into the second round and that’s the main thing right now.”
The second round did not go as well with Stewart characterizing the car as “a little bit freer than we were the first round,” but he was pleased with the team’s effort.
“I’m excited about being in the top two rows right now; definitely happier about that than being mid-pack right now,” Stewart said.
He also spoke about having the support of his fans, who were clearly ecstatic after his qualifying effort.
“That is huge,” he stated. “Like I say when you come home that is what you want. They play as big of a part in this as anything when it comes to keeping your moral up.”
Stewart was cautiously optimistic about Sunday’s race.
“Well, I mean it could go and be a natural disaster tomorrow,” Stewart admitted. “It could all be for nothing. It’s the way you want to start the weekend for sure is to have two good runs in qualifying and have a decent starting spot. That is definitely what we were looking for today.”
“I have said all year that it could change in a week and it doesn’t even mean that after this weekend it’s not going to go back to where it has been,” he continued. “But, for here we have a balance. We will just see if we can keep it that way all day tomorrow.”
The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has two wins at his home track and seven top-five finishes. Stewart also has a fourth-best driver rating of 101.9 at Indianapolis. Everything considered, there’s no better place for him to turn a lackluster year into a winning season.