Momentum in sports is such an iffy thing. Here today, and gone — as in "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" — tomorrow.
It's impossible to connect the dots and assume that Tony Stewart's victory in Dover on Sunday was a season-changing ego boost as they prepare to race at Pocono this Sunday.
But it most certainly is a life-saver for a team that was on life support and, without question, the most disappointing among the other superpowers in the garage. The victory just his third top-10 finish of 2013 for a driver affectionately nicknamed "Smoke."
"It's definitely momentum," Stewart said after winning in Dover. "We got two weeks of momentum under our belt now at two totally different race tracks. That is big. Momentum is huge in this sport. We still got a lot of work to do. We won't sit. I guarantee you none of these guys behind you will tell you we are exactly where we want to be right now."
Stewart still has a lot of catching up to do. He is 16th in points after moving up four slots. But the one victory could do him wonders trying to snag one of two wild-card slots that are heavily weighted on victories.
And Pocono bodes well for Stewart's third consecutive strong finish — he was seventh at the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend. Stewart finished third and fifth in the two races at Pocono last year. His average finish there in 28 races is 12.4.
"Our guys at our shop have been digging," Stewart said. "None of these guys get down. We have been down but they haven't gotten down.''
This uptick is a good thing for NASCAR. Stewart is a three-time Cup champion and one of the most engaging characters on the circuit, even if the exchanges with the media and other types often get testy.
Passion for your profession is great, and Stewart exudes it.
"Oh, we have got more work to do. Don't let this kid anybody," said Greg Zipadelli, the competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing. "But as a group, we are building momentum at the right time of the year, and we did win a race. I guess we moved up a bunch of points; that's positive. So we are going to take the positives. We are going to Pocono to try to build on it just like we did at Charlotte.
"That's all we can do — build on it and continue to improve. When we win a bunch of these things in a row, it means that we don't have to work on it anymore. But you're right; we did make gains. We did talk last week, and like I told you, some things take time and, you know, these guys did a really good job this weekend of getting off, executing, getting their selves back on and making the right calls at the right time and putting themselves in position to win."
Once there was only "Smoke." Now there is fire.
It's a good thing for Stewart and NASCAR.
While Tony Stewart is on the rise, defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski continues to sputter along.
Keselowski and car owner Roger Penske were fined six points on Tuesday after NASCAR officials deemed that the front end of Keselowski's car was too low during a post-race inspection at Dover.
In addition, crew chief Paul Wolfe was fined $25,000 and will remain on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31.
Penske said Monday that the problem resulted with a broken part that allowed a front spring to fall.
The incident puts another black mark on Keselowski's season. Wolfe had just come off a three-race suspension for using unapproved parts.