Some athletes practice something akin to Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking.” They dream with anticipation, visualizing themselves on the trophy stand. When the going gets tough, the competitor utters positive self-talk and reassuring words as a mantra to push on through. With an unflappability reminiscent of Drew Brees, this athlete lets adversity roll off of him like a bead of sweat. Nothing gets in this guy’s way.

Apparently, two-time NASCAR champion and current points leader Tony Stewart never met Norman Vincent Peale. When life gives Smoke lemons, he squirts life in the eye! Misery loves company? Misery and Stewart are an item!

Consider this: just a few weeks ago, he said he was taking the place of someone more deserving in the Chase. If he made it, Stewart didn’t think he would be much of a contender. This is the same Tony Stewart who called out members of the media for the "originality" of the their questions towards him at Richmond.

Now here Tony Stewart is having won two races in a row, leading the points. Prior to that, he was ramping up with three top tens in four starts.

It takes me back to the 2007 season. You may recall that was the season he rammed then-teammate Denny Hamlin at Daytona in the "400." It was that same season, he likened NASCAR to the WWE. Stewart also made a live national TV comment about the, ahem, bovine excrement his fans had to put up with (but he used the more colorful reference). It was that same season he reeled off three wins in four races, and wound up sixth in points during a season that was rather trying at times, to say the least.

Different motivators get different people going. Even at the top of his game, Dale Earnhardt raced like he was in fear of losing his ride. Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson thrived on the “us against the world” sales pitch to his team. Tony Stewart? He seems to be one of those competitors who works best with gravel in his gut, and spit in his eye. Never mind this is the same guy who gives generously to children’s charities, throws cookouts to flood victims, and has a soft spot for animals through his foundation.

Author Jeff MacGregor’s assessment of the winner of 41 races still rings true. He once told ESPN that Stewart has 12 personalities; nine that are charming, smart and funny, and three that want to hit you in the mouth.

You can’t be angry all the time. Truth be told, it’s really not Stewart’s style, and he’s described by those who know him well as a sensitive guy. Still. Smoke fans have to hope whatever is stewing Tony will keep him in his zone for eight more weeks.

Other articles by Jim McCoy include:

Chicago Shake Up Adds Intrigue
Jeff Gordon’s Drive For Five Is Alive
Cool, Quiet Kenseth Is The Stealth Candidate