By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
Tony Stewart’s final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season may go in the books as his most memorable. After a hellacious start to the season that saw the three-time series champion sidelined for the first eight races with a severe back injury after an offseason incident in a sand dune in California, Stewart has come back to win his first race since 2013 in dramatic fashion at Sonoma.
Now after months of consistent racing, Stewart has officially secured himself a berth in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
By finishing 21st in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Stewart officially put enough of a points gap between himself and the 31st-place spot in the point standings to mathematically clinch his place in this year’s championship battle.
It has to be a sweet moment for Stewart, who many had written off before the season started.
Stewart’s last three season’s leading up to this year had been riddled with injury and mediocrity. In 2013, Stewart missed the final 15 races of the season after he broke his leg in a vicious accident in a winged sprint car race. The following year Stewart was at the center of a tragic accident, when in another local winged sprint car race, his car made contact with fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. after Ward exited his car under a yellow flag.
Stewart returned with high hopes in 2015, but suffered through his least competitive season of his career. Once it was announced that Stewart would miss a significant chunk of the 2016 season with injuries, it looked like it would be an unfitting end to an illustrious career. However Stewart, in his typical fashion, wouldn’t submit. He came back as a more focused driver and he is now back at the top of the sport that he’s dominated at times since 1999.
Stewart-Haas Racing will now have at least three of their four cars in this season’s Chase.
The question is: Can Stewart go on to win the championship for the ultimate curtain call? It’s certainly possible. Stewart’s performance over the past few months should certainly have the competition keeping an eye on the No. 14 Chevrolet for sure.