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Tony Stewart says he's tired of getting no respect from rivals, so he's going to play it mean from here on

  Chicagoland pit road gets busy during Monday's Chicago 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   JOLIET, Ill.
   Just a month ago, after a miserable afternoon at Michigan, Tony Stewart was complaining he and his team didn't even really deserve to be in the playoffs, that they would just be taking a spot from a more deserving team.
   Certainly Stewart and crew chief Darian Grubb have had many more downs than ups this season. And Stewart himself has been in a downright angry mood nearly every weekend lately.    
    In fact just Thursday Stewart gave his assessment of the real championship contenders in this fall's Sprint Cup playoffs, and he pointedly left his own team out of it.

    But maybe now things have finally changed.
   Monday's victory in the rain-delayed Chicago 400 could – if Stewart and Grubb can follow up well at New Hampshire and Dover these next few weeks – mark the turning point.
    Stewart will go to New Hampshire second in the standings, just seven points behind new leader Kevin Harvick.
   And the chase, if there are more wacky gas mileage finishes like this one, could be more unpredictable than expected.
   Grubb concedes he's had to work overtime to get his driver in a championship frame of mind.
   "We had a bad run from what we expected to have at Michigan," Grubb says. "We didn't feel at that point we were contenders.
   "But you leave there….you go in the shop the next morning and you put your game face back on and you say 'We're contenders. We'll be chase contenders.'
    "That's the way we treat it."


Not sure where Darian Grubb (L) and Tony Stewart got these hats.....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Stewart himself is still wary: "I'm not sure one weekend can do that.  But I feel better about it obviously. 
    "We've had three good weekends in a row. 
     "Today doesn't change my mind…but the last three weeks definitely make me feel better about it.
    "We've still got nine hard weeks to go.  And we have some tracks ahead that have been a struggle this year.
    "So we've got a long way to go. But this gets us off to the right start."

    Stewart hasn't been in a good mood lately. But he may explain his latest haranguing mood with a persistent migraine headache.
    "I've been battling a migraine for a day and a half," he says. "It started about an hour before we qualified Saturday. 
    "We battle it a lot.  There are a lot of weekends we have it. 
    "We've raced with them before.  It's not fun. 
     "I can't say that I remember it's actually affected us in the car. But you get out of the car afterwards and you feel like you want to get hit by a train -- it would make you feel better."

    That, plus a season of too many downs and not enough ups….
    "We felt like there were three or four opportunities earlier in the year (to win) that we let get away from us," Stewart says, pointedly referring to Las Vegas in March. 
    "But we have struggled.  We've had a miserable year. 
    "But the last three weeks we have really started coming into it. We had a really good run in Atlanta. A good, solid run last week at Richmond. And then this….
    "I didn't honestly know going into the race….I don't think Darian either thought we had as good a car as we needed to win. 
     "But it didn't take long in the race to figure out that we were pretty solid.
    "It was just getting the track position."
    While the race itself went swiftly and relatively smoothly, Stewart said several of his fellow drivers were racing at times "like idiots.
    "A couple times we were three-wide, and through the middle, and in positions we didn't want to be in, that we typically wouldn't put ourselves in. 
     "But the way guys were racing, you had to take chances, you had to put yourself in bad spots.
     "Everybody was putting each other in bad spots during the day. Some guys in particular you just had to get through and get away from them."
    This isn't the first time this season that Stewart has complained about his fellow drivers not showing enough courtesy.
   This time he said the culprits were the drivers who weren't in the playoffs. "There wasn't a lot of give and take," Stewart griped.
    "There was a lot of times that it was obvious that guys were quicker than others, and instead of using the etiquette we've had forever….well, I don't think you're going to see that etiquette anymore.  I think it's just dying off.
    "I think guys don't care whether they make anybody mad or not.  They're just going to do what they want to do; they're only worried about themselves.
     "So we're going to start adopting that attitude. 
     "I'm tired of being a guy that gives a guy a break and then a guy doesn't do it in return, or the guy puts you in a bad situation. 
    "And we were put in multiple bad situations -- by guys I got a lot of respect for, that are friends of mine.
    "So I'm going to adapt to their style. 
     "I'm not going to fight 42 guys to try to convince them to do the right thing. They don't want to do the right thing, so we're just going to do it their way.
     "It's a lot easier to not care about anybody but ourselves.  That's what we'll do."
     Stewart played the enforcer himself at times this year, like when he crashed Brian Vickers at Sonoma in June.
     Stewart says if the late Dale Earnhardt were still around, he'd be meting out justice heavy-handed.
    "When you had Dale Earnhardt around, you learned if you weren't doing the right thing," Stewart said. "And Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace….
     "They would teach you if you were doing something wrong at the wrong time.
     "And you see what happens now -- Take somebody out, they get their car fixed, they come out and their sole goal is not to finish it out and get the points they can get, their sole purpose on coming back to the track is to return your day.
     "The attitude of everybody on the track has changed. 
      "The ante has gone up, I guess. 
     "There's a part of the sport that I liked because I like the respect that guys gave each other. 
     "There are still guys that do.  Like Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. 
      "But the funny thing is that guys that don't do it are the guys that don't have good days all the time…and they haven't figured out that if you work with everybody, everybody will work with you.
     "There are a handful of guys who will race us with respect, and that's why those guys end up upfront every week."


   Crew chief Darian Grubb: the low point was Bristol, only a few weeks ago. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Just when you start feeling

Just when you start feeling sorry for Tony Stewart, he says something with selective memory that has no bearing on his point. Has he watched the old tapes of Dale Earnhardt? I rarely remember Earnhardt being a part of any "give and take". It was almost always take, and that's why people loved Earnhardt so much. He spun many a car to get whatever he needed, and the "way he used to do things" did not involve giving anyone a break on the track. Had Stewart used Mark Martin or Terry Labonte as his referenced driver, then his point might have been made. They raced hard, but with a completely different style than Dale Sr. Earnhardt was definitely not like them, and raced everybody hard all of the time. As much as I did not like the way Earnhardt took people out from time to time, he raced like you're supposed to race for the most part. Tony's viewpoint is what real race fans detest about the Cup Series today. Drivers should be out for the win each and every week, and not settling for "a good points day". They SHOULD be in it for themselves, and not "giving people breaks". As for his remark about retaliation, if you wreck somebody on purpose then you better expect the favor to be returned as soon as the victim gets a chance to rectify the wrong. I have no problem with what Vickers did at Sears Point, especially when Stewart said he wrecked Vickers on purpose. You ruined his race intentionally, so expect yours to be ruined also. Now, on the other hand, what Edwards did to Keselowski last season at Atlanta was way beyond that and should have been dealt with severely by NASCAR. Bottom line, fans want to see guys racing hard ALL the time and not riding around making laps, and they especially don't want to hear drivers talking about others "racing too hard". This notion of "racing too hard" has got to go. If you don't want to race, then pull over and let the people who do go on by or let somebody else drive your car. Us fans will thank you for it later.

Does this guy ever stop

Does this guy ever stop whining?

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