Stewart thrilled with team's progress

Tony Stewart is confident that Stewart Haas Racing have already proved that they will be top contenders by the end of the Sprint Cup season

Stewart thrilled with team's progress

Just three races into his first year as an owner-driver, Stewart has already finished in the top ten twice, leading laps in both of the first two races of the season. Last week at Las Vegas he ran well again but a loose wheel caused him to drop a lap down late in the race, costing him another good finish.

Stewart says he is happy that his team are so competitive so early in the season, which makes him confident about being able to contend for more than just race wins at the end of the year.

"There's still question marks I'm sure with a lot of people, 'Can we do this?' and three weeks in a row we've gone out and run well," Stewart said. "We didn't get the physical finish at Las Vegas that we deserved, but we had a good performance on the racetrack.

"Every weekend I've had cars that I've been extremely comfortable in. That's half the battle. That's half the worry you have as a driver when you get into a new programme. It's, 'How is this package compared to what I've been driving?' and I've been very, very happy with that.

"The pit stops have been good. All the variables and pieces are there, if we get a little luck on our side, we're going to nail one of these down. Every time I leave the racetrack, it just gives me confidence that we're going to be something to contend with at the end of the year."

Stewart says his new role as an owner has not really taken any of his attention away from his usual duties as a driver. When he is at the track he is focused on what he does best, while during the week he shifts to his new obligations.

"I take the owner's hat off on Thursday night when I get to the racetrack and put it back on Monday," Stewart explained. "I'm still dealing with three pedals and a shifter when I get in the car. It's the same thing as it was last year whether I was a driver or an owner. That's the reality of it.

"My job when I get in the car is to drive the car. It's not until Monday that I focus on being an owner. It's a full-time job being a driver, but Monday to Thursday when I'm not being a driver, we still have to shuffle things around like appearances and media days and try to figure out how we need to meet all these obligations.

"It's been something that I think we've all been pretty efficient about so far."

But while Stewart has enjoyed a good start to his season, his teammate Ryan Newman has not been that fortunate and a 25th place at Las Vegas last weekend has been his best result thus far. He currently ranks 33rd in the points, but he too is confident of his team's potential.

"It has been a frustrating few weeks for us, but it's a long season," said Newman. "It helps me to think about the things that have gone right - the fact that I know we have had highly competitive cars, but that we have had some rough luck.

"We have tremendous support from Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. I am very confident in the guys who are working on my cars at Stewart-Haas Racing. We have fast racecars and a great team behind me.

"I have no doubt that we will be a very competitive team once we get things going our way. Hopefully, that is sooner rather than later."

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