Dave Martin Associated Press Tony Stewart, left, talking with Kevin Harvick, hasn't had much reason to smile. He hasn't had a top-10 finish in the last seven races.

Stewart's team searching for answers

Published: Sunday, May. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 8C
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 5, 2013 - 7:09 am

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Tony Stewart is a three-time Sprint Cup champion. He has 47 victories since he joined the circuit in 1999. He has finished in the top 10 in points every season except 2006, when he was 11th.

So who is the guy languishing in 22nd place in the 2013 Cup standings? The guy who has gone seven consecutive races without a top-10 finish?

"Definitely not happy with where we are, but I don't think anybody really is," Stewart said last week at Richmond. "I think everybody feels like there are things they can do better, and some of those organizations are questioning what they have to do to get better. We're one of those teams right now."

The Stewart-Hass Racing team is struggling. Ryan Newman is 16th, and Danica Patrick is 26th. It's baffling, when you think about it. Stewart and Newman are veterans, and Patrick was supposed to piggy-back on their success while learning on the fly.

While it's easy to justify Patrick's struggles, Stewart's inability to dial it in remains inexplicable.

"That's the frustrating part – when you go week in and week out and you can't figure out what that missing piece of the equation is," Stewart said. "You see guys that have not been good in the past but all of the sudden are good. They've found something, so it's proof that it's there. It's just our job to go out and find it and capitalize on it."

Despite the quirky restrictor-plate dynamics that will come into play today at Talladega Superspeedway, Stewart still is looking for speed to compete at the front. He'll start 25th for the Aaron's 499.

Saturday's persistent rain washed out qualifying, setting the lineup based on Friday's practice times. Carl Edwards will start on the pole, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Marcos Ambrose.

NASCAR Nationwide in Talladega, Ala. – Regan Smith thought he'd won at Talladega before, only to have a NASCAR ruling go against him.

So there was no rush to celebrate Saturday night as Smith waited for NASCAR to review videotape and scoring loops to determine the winner of the crash-filled Nationwide Series race. He thought he was out front when the final caution flew – it was dark enough that he could see the glaring yellow lights – but experience taught Smith to stay calm.

After a few anxious minutes, the word came down: Smith was going to Victory Lane.

"I was having flashbacks sitting on pit road, I'm not going to lie, when they were making the decision," said Smith, who crossed the finish line first in a 2008 Sprint Cup race but wasn't awarded the win because NASCAR said he went below the yellow line to pass Tony Stewart. "It certainly wipes that bad memory away."

The race was delayed three hours by rain and slowed by seven cautions, and as darkness closed in, NASCAR cut the race by 10 laps.

At least 10 cars were jockeying for position in packs of two on the final lap when Brian Vickers was spun into the outside wall. Smith, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne raced three-wide to the finish line, and Kahne actually crossed it first.

IndyCar in Sao Paulo – Ryan Hunter-Reay set a track record to win the pole position for the Sao Paulo 300. The defending IndyCar Series champion had a lap of 1 minute, 20.43 seconds at the Anhembi street track, .307 ahead of Venezuelan EJ Viso and .461 in front of Scotland's Dario Franchitti.

Home-crowd favorite Tony Kanaan was fourth despite an injured right hand that caused him problems throughout the day. He'll participate in his 200th consecutive race today, extending the second-longest run in the series.

NHRA in Commerce, Ga. – Rain forced officials to postpone the NHRA Southern Nationals until next weekend. Eliminations will be Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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