Mike Bugarewicz has a hard enough job as a NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chief.
But that job just got a little easier – at least for one race – after his driver, Tony Stewart, won Sunday at Sonoma.
Not only was it Stewart’s first win since 2013 – and the 49th of his Sprint Cup career – it was also Bugarewicz’s first win atop a Cup pit box.
“I’ve only worked at Stewart-Haas (Racing), this is my third year, (the first) two years with Kevin (Harvick) as his engineer,” Bugarewicz said. “Every win is sweet whether I’m a race engineer or crew chief or whatever, it’s all great.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet that it was my first, but our goal from the beginning of the year was to get Tony back in victory lane, and I’m just so glad that we could get him there.”
Stewart made headlines Friday when he said during his weekly media availability that “driving a Sprint Cup car does not make me happy right now” ,and that is why he’s looking so forward to retiring at season’s end.
But after Sunday’s win, Bugarewicz said his driver’s mindset might have changed a bit more to the positive side of things – and that he certainly had some fun in Sunday’s win.
“I did not remember to ask him that,” Bugarewicz said about failing to ask Stewart if he was having fun before Sunday’s race. “I just assumed by the look of his face that he was enjoying it.
“One thing I will say, no matter what, every week it’s the last thing I say to him before I leave the car and he actually reminded me of that today.
“He said, ‘If I get angry and start yelling at you today, just remind me to have fun.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know how that’ll work out for me.’ But no, we always talk about that. What’s most important for all of us is just enjoy it, take it in. You have to do that.”
While Bugarewicz and his team did everything they could to help Stewart to victory lane, in the end it was Stewart who did what he needed to do.
That included being mum on the team radio on the final lap.
“I stayed pretty quiet,” Bugarewicz said. “The spotter was keeping in touch with him. He didn’t say much, either.
“In those situations I just like to let (Stewart) concentrate and let him do his thing. He’s got a lot going on, especially at a place like this, so we just let him focus.”
But Bugarewicz also had something that only one other Sprint Cup team (six-time champ Jimmie Johnson) has — a driver with multiple Cup titles.
“Having a three-time champion who knew he had an opportunity today is a big thing,” Bugarewicz said. “At the end of the day, we only won because of his desire and his drive and his want.
“I truly believe that with these competitors and how good all the cars are and these top-tier drivers, that’s all it is. It’s a matter of who wants it more at the end of the day in most cases. Today, Tony wanted it more.”