DOVER, DE (WFXG) - Tony Stewart's performance in 2013 could be described as lack luster at best. However, the three time champion sent a message to the rest of the field that his team is not dead as he captured victory in Sunday's Autism Speaks 400 at Dover.
With no top five finishes and thirty races since his last win, many had begun to doubt the ability of Stewart and his team to turn things around. However, a strong top ten run at Charlotte seemed to get the team pointed in the right direction.
"Everybody's working hard in pulling this together," commented winning Crew Chief, Steve Addington. "I think that when you're down, it tells a lot about a group of guys to pull together and try to get out of that slump and I think that it's headed in the right direction."
Addington has been in the rumor mill lately with indications that his job might be in jeopardy if things didn't improve but, Stewart put a quick end to those rumors after the race.
"You guys need to just come talk to us, because we never discussed any of this crap that's been going around here," replied Stewart when asked about the rumors. "It's been a huge distraction for our organization."
With that settled, Stewart went on to talk about how proud he was of his team's tenacity to find a solution to their problems.
"There's been a lot of dejected guys all year, and disappointed guys all year, but that's why we want them working at Stewart-Haas Racing," continued Stewart. "They are all trying to find a solution and that's what makes days like today so special is when you have guys that just do not quit and they refuse to give up.
Stewart's win gives him a big leg up on making the post season. However, just making the post season is not on the top of Stewart's achievement list.
"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 the Chase," observed Stewart on his post season goals. "Just making the Chase, that's not good enough."
Stewart's victory came at the expense of another driver that has not seen victory lane in a long time. Juan Pablo-Montoya took the lead on lap 382 as race favorite, Jimmie Johnson, jumped the restart and was black flagged.
"I think he wanted to time it and he timed it too well," said Montoya regarding Johnson's quick restart. "It's one of those deals that when you time it too good, it actually hurts you."
Still, with Stewart running him down on the final two laps, Montoya was not all that upset about finishing second and concentrated on the positives of the last two weeks improved performance.
"It's a shame, you know, there at the end, it was way too loose and I just couldn't hold Tony off," explained Montoya.
With the 2013 season now at the half way mark, Stewart and his team seem to be ramping up for their typical summer run to the Chase. Montoya also seems to be finding his place in Cup Series racing after many years of mediocrity. Let's see if they both can keep that momentum going.