Tony Stewart isn't quite where he needs to be yet to make a serious run at a fourth NASCAR Premier Series championship, but he's closer than he's been in the last three years and that makes him dangerous indeed.
Stewart was in Uptown Charlotte Wednesday afternoon to unveil the Bobby Allison-themed, Coca-Cola sponsored No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet he will drive on Labor Day weekend in the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Afterward, the three-time champ met with a small group of reporters and professed that he and his team were relaxed and having fun. Stewart stopped short of saying his squad was championship ready, but it was clear his confidence and his crew's was way up.
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Of course, success helps a lot. In his last seven starts, Stewart has a victory at Sonoma Raceway, a runner-up finish at Kentucky Speedway and two other top fives. Despite missing the first eight races of the year with a broken back, Stewart is firmly inside the bubble for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Asked by FOXSports.com if he was ready to make another title run, Stewart said, "I hope so. I still think we're a little bit short of where we need to be, but we're gaining out."
Stewart's SHR teammate, Kevin Harvick won the title in 2014, finished second last year and is leading the points now. That's Stewart's baseline for where he needs to be.
"We've got to get to where Kevin is to have a shot at it," Stewart said of his championship aspirations.
Still, you could tell Stewart was pumped up.
"I'm pretty proud. I'm excited," said Stewart. "This is what I want right now. This is -- whether or not we're going to be a championship contender, I want to be running good every week. And we've got that going on our side."
Stewart said the enthusiasm is apparent throughout the team.
"Everybody's pumped up, everybody's relaxed and everybody's having fun," said Stewart. "And that's what I want this year."