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Stewart believes any worries about SHR turning into a circus act are misguided.
"We are putting a collection of talent together. There are flaws in all of us," he said. "As much as people are making it out to be a recipe for disaster, I think it’s the opposite. I think it’s a huge support system for each other."
That similar system has worked at Hendrick Motorsports, where Johnson has won six of the last eight championships. A seventh title would tie him with Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.
He doesn’t believe the change to the Chase format is designed to stop him, nor does he believe it will hinder his record-setting opportunity.
"When I look at the years we’ve won championships, we’ve won a lot of races. We’ve won a lot of races in the Chase," Johnson said. "And the way this format plays out, we would have that opportunity come Homestead. So this could be something very good for us. If we can keep our stats like they’ve been, and the process we’ve used, it could be very good for us."
It could also be good for Dale Earnhardt Jr., his teammate who turns 40 this October still seeking his first Sprint Cup title. If the new Chase format had been applied last season, Earnhardt would have been the champion.
"I feel like I am on the verge of breaking through and having possibly one of my best seasons," Earnhardt said. "Maybe it’s just the stars aligning or fate that they’re making these changes and maybe we just have the type of season we need to have to be the guy at Homestead holding the trophy."
This year also marks the return of the No. 3 to the track in the Sprint Cup Series. The number has not been used at NASCAR’s highest level since Earnhardt’s fatal accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, but it is back with Austin Dillon and the Childress organization.
Childress is adamant that Earnhardt had a succession plan for his famed number, and that Childress’ grandson is the perfect driver to use the No. 3. Dillon has used it throughout his career and won the Nationwide Series title last season with the number.
Fan responses can be mixed to the use of the No. 3, but Dillon is certain he’s doing the right thing.
"Everybody has the right to their own opinion and I’ve had enough good responses for me to be confident in what I’m doing and going after," Dillon said. "I’m happy at this point and excited to see what happens at Daytona. I feel like I’m ready."
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