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Stewart Off To Frustrating Start In Chevrolet

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DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — Reigning Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart switched from a Pontiac to a Chevrolet after last season but had hoped to continue his strong performances behind the wheel.

Stewart has prided himself on his competitiveness and his ability to drive virtually anything on wheels.

His transition to a Chevrolet has hardly been smooth.

In last Saturday's Bud Shootout, Stewart started 12th in the 19-car field. He never really threatened for the lead and finished 15th.

In Monday's competition to determine the top two starting spots for Sunday's Daytona 500, Stewart's car suffered an engine problem and failed to complete a lap.

"I'm not real sure what happened," Stewart said. "It was something in themotor.

"When we came around and crossed the start/finish line, it made a pop, and then it took off again. But, at the same time, after it did that, it started laying down.

"Coming off the backstretch, there it was about 700 revs lower than it should have been," Stewart said, "so I knew we had a problem. There wasn't any point in blowing the motor up and messing up the racetrack."

The engine trouble offered a setback to Stewart, who finished last in last year's Daytona 500 after his Pontiac blew its engine on the first lap. But he added that Monday's problems could be overcome.

Stewart and his crew have until Thursday to figure out what happened Monday. There will be two 125-lap qualifying races Thursday to determine the rest of the Daytona 500 starting positions.

"If that's the worst thing that happens to us, we'll be all right this year," said Stewart.

"It's not the way we wanted to start off Speedweeks. But last year we started off Speedweeks great and finished up bad, so maybe we're starting off bad, and we're going to finish up good."

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