(Editor's Note: In the week leading up to the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland, we will be profiling each of the 16 Chase drivers.)

Driver: Tony Stewart

Seed: No. 11

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Team: Stewart-Haas Racing, No. 14 Chevrolet

Crew chief: Mike Bugarewicz

Best finish: 1st, Sonoma

Age: 45

Hometown: Columbus, Ind.

In his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Tony Stewart missed the first eight races of the year due to a serious back injury.

Stewart's returned to competition at Richmond International Raceway in April and received a medical waiver by NASCAR to still be eligible for the Chase, given that he could win a race and get in the top 30 in points.

And Smoke did just that.

The three-time Cup champion outdueled Denny Hamlin to score the much-needed victory at Sonoma Raceway.

Stewart also earned five top fives and seven top-10 finishes to comfortably race his way into the top 30 and make the Chase.

Five defining moments:

1. Sidelined -- Stewart's farewell season didn't get off to a good start. Smoke was forced to sit out the first eight races of the season due to a serious back injury suffered during the off-season.

2. Back in the saddle -- Stewart made his return to the cockpit in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 24, finishing 19th in his first start of 2016.

3. Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma -- In a last-lap battle with Denny Hamlin, Stewart passed the Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the final turn to win at the California road course. It was his first victory since Dover in 2013. Despite the win, he still had to race his way into the top 30 in points to make the Chase.

4. Quaker State 400 at Kentucky -- In his 600th career start, Smoke finished fifth and put a 31-point cushion between himself and 31st-place in the points standings in his efforts to make the Chase.

5. Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis -- In his final race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stewart shared a special moment with Jeff Gordon, who came out of retirement to fill in for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. Stewart finished 11th in his final race at The Brickyard.