(Originally appeared on Sept. 26, 2011 at WRALSportsFan.com)
So much is being made of the fact that Tony Stewart has won the first two races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Where was he during the regular season, many ask. Others claim the co-owner of Stewart Haas Racing was sandbagging, doing just enough to make the Chase and then exploding once the 10-race playoff began.
(Sounds familiar, like a certain reigning five-time Sprint Cup champ we know, doesn't it?)
But what Stewart has achieved in the first two races at Chicagoland and New Hampshire is far from a surprise if you're a longtime follower of his.
Consider this: With the exception of the last couple of years, Stewart historically has been known as a driver who typically gets very hot in the second half of a season.
Remember 2006, the year he failed to make the Chase, missing qualifying for NASCAR's so-called postseason by less than 20 points? What did Stewart do that was rather remarkable?
Answer: Even though he failed to make the Chase, he still went on to win three of its 10 races, stealing much of the thunder away from Jimmie Johnson's quest for what would become the first of his five consecutive Sprint Cup titles.
Yes, Stewart was in a slump earlier this season. It seemed like for every step he took forward, he'd take two steps back. I mean, how many drivers who are on the bubble to make the Chase publicly come out and say they don't feel they deserve to be in the playoff and that another, more qualified driver should take his (Stewart's) place?
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