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Stewart: Season starts in Fontana

Despite a strong Speedweeks, which included podiums in the Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duel and a win in the Nationwide Series opener, Tony Stewart insists that the Auto Club 500 in Fontana this weekend will give a better indication of where everyone lies in the 2009 Sprint Cup field.

In his first race weekend with his own Stewart Haas Racing team, Stewart finished eighth in the Daytona 500 and heads to California in seventh in the standings, having also secured bonus points for leading the 500 in its early stages.

However, he was quick to point out that the Fontana circuit will provide a different challenge to Daytona, with the onus being more on each driver rather than performances as a team.

“Daytona is a restrictor-plate race, and unlike Daytona, four guys can't get in a line at California and go to the front,” he said. “Daytona and Talladega have always just been two different forms of racing. With the draft being so important at those two tracks, it's more of a team deal than an individual deal. What happens at California and the races after that has to be done on our own. You can't help each other at California. You just have to go race.

“Daytona does overshadow California and Vegas and some of the early tracks on the schedule. Once you get through Daytona, these next two or three races after that really set the tone for your season. It gives you an accurate assessment of where your programme is right off the bat.”

Stewart added that he felt Fontana will be where the season really begins, with the week-long extravaganza that is Speedweeks firmly in the past.

“I think everybody's pretty worn out after being in Daytona for so long,” he said. “California means a normal routine and a chance for the crew guys to get back to their families for a couple of days before heading to another racetrack.

“What you do at California is solely based on what you and your team can do with your racecar, not what drafting line you're in or how the car behind you is going to affect your next move. Once we get away from Daytona everything kind of settles into a groove. We're back in the weekly grind. I enjoy going to California because I really feel that's where our season starts. That's a track where you don't really worry about what everybody else's car is doing. You worry about what your car is doing. You're racing the racetrack. You're not racing everybody else. It's a good opportunity to get back into the swing of things.

“Once you leave California, you feel like the season has officially started.”


Related Pictures

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Tony Stewart at Daytona [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, races to his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career win with a victory lap and checkered flag, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory with a wave of the chequered flag Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, celebrates after taking the chequered flag during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet, gets into his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #2 Rheem Chevrolet, and Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bulwark/PAR Electric Chevrolet, talk during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2016 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet, poses for a photo after winning the Coors Light Pole Award during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS SS, qualifies for second position Friday, March 18, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Harvick will be joined on the front row by pole setter Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

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