FONTANA, CA - Tony Stewart typically doesn't hit high gear until the summer, while Ryan Newman hovers around the edge of the Chase the first few months.
To have both in the top 5 of the Chase standings so early in the NASCAR season could be a good omen for Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart and Newman both had a disappointing finish at the Daytona 500, but have climbed quickly up the standings since.
Heading into Sunday's 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway, Stewart has led a series-high 222 laps and is tied with Newman for third in the Chase standings with 138 points, 12 behind Kurt Busch.
Stewart won the Chase race at Fontana in October, pulling away from Jimmie Johnson on the final restart for his first win at the 2-mile oval in 19 tries.