HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Tony Stewart says that there will be “a lot of changes” to his team after this season following another disappointing year.
Stewart would not reveal what the changes would be – “I think you’ll have that answer soon enough,’’ he said – but changes are expected in personnel, including with crew chief Chad Johnston.
Stewart enters Sunday’s season finale 28th in the points. It would be his worst career finish in a season he ran the entire schedule. The three-time series champion has not finished better than 25th in the points in each of the past three seasons.
“There’s got to be a lot of change,’’ Stewart said Thursday at the Championship 4 Media Day. “It’s not like we were a 15th-place car all year. We haven’t even been close to that.’’
Adding to the challenge is that next year will be Stewart’s final season driving in the series. He sees Jeff Gordon exiting this year with a chance to win the championship and feels a “sense of urgency.
“We’re definitely going to work hard this winter to try to fix it, more so to try to identify what the problem was,’’ Stewart said. “Once we can identify what the problem is, then it’s a little easier to identify what the solutions are.’’
Stewart is confident that the low-downforce package next season will be good for him.
“It’s definitely not going to hurt us,’’ he said. “It definitely suits my driving style better than this era of taking horsepower away and adding downforce.’’
Stewart’s struggles have come while teammate Kevin Harvick won the championship last year and again will race for the title this weekend. Also, teammate Kurt Busch has made the Chase each of the past two years.
With the expected changes, Stewart was asked about developing chemistry with new crew members in his final season.
“Whatever happens this winter, we have to take what we’ve got, we have to take what we end up starting the season with and we’ve got to make the best out of it all year,’’ he said. “At the end of the season, if it’s not the way we wanted and we gave everything we could, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy about it, but at least you don’t feel that you left anything on the table. We’ll do everything we can in our power.
“You pray and you hope and you dream of having a season like Jeff’s had where you come into the last race, the last race of your career, and you hopefully have a chance to race for a championship.’’