DOVER, Del. Tony Stewart is chasing history and a championship.
He can become the first driver to start 3-for-3 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
He can become the first owner-driver to win the Cup since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.
He can become a lot of things except interested in talking about his place in the record book. Smoke only cares about his result this weekend at Dover International Speedway.
Come talk to me in eight weeks, and well talk about it, Stewart said Friday. Well worry about it in eight weeks. Weve got a long way to go before we need to worry about that.
Its a conversation that Stewart could have if he keeps up his strong start to the Chase. With wins at Chicagoland Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Stewart joined Greg Biffle as the only drivers to start the Chase 2-for-2 in the eight-year history of the format.
Theres little time to enjoy his success with Dover and the concrete mile looming Sunday.
I dont think Tony Stewarts ever got a clear mind, Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman said.
Stewart hinted last week at New Hampshire that his mind was cleared somewhat with cryptic comments about dumping some dead weight.
Its made it a lot easier. Its been a big weight lifted off our shoulders, he said without explanation.
He wasnt in the mood to explain Friday.
I think the last two weeks have proven I dont care what the distractions are; I can focus on what I need to focus on, he said.
What kind of distractions?
Anything. Dealing with you guys is a distraction, but we can still go do what we need to do, he said to a group of media members.
So exactly what Stewart was talking about, and why he decided to unload moments after taking the checkered flag, remain a mystery. He likes it that way. What isnt in doubt is how hes become a championship contender, erasing what had been a subpar regular season for No. 14.
I dont know why its turned around or whats been the answer for it, but Im happy its been that way, he said.
Stewart had few answers for why hes struggled over the years at Dover. If any track can knock him out of the points lead, its the Monster Mile.
He started fast when he swept the two races in 2000, but that was an aberration rather than a jump-start toward making Dover one of his favorite tracks. Stewart never finished better than 18th over a five-race stretch from 2005-2007, finished 21st and 29th in his last two appearances and has a modest 12.5 average finish over 25 career starts on the Monster Mile.
We just havent been very good here the last couple of races so we definitely need to pick up our performance this week, Stewart said. Technology has changed a lot in the last 13 years, the cars have changed a lot, the tires have changed a lot. There have been a lot of variables that have changed.
Stewart has a seven-point lead over Kevin Harvick and an 11-point lead over Brad Keselowski in third. His closest challengers have noticed Stewart struggles at Dover and hope they can pounce this week if he does again.
Im more curious to see how he runs this week and places like Martinsville where, in the spring he didnt look that good, Keselowski said. I think that will be a true test for his team. I think that every team has tracks coming up that are going to be tough on them.
Beat the Monster and Stewart just really may be the driver to beat the rest of the way.