A year after winning his third career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, Tony Stewart is ninth in the standings after a disappointing Chase.
With one race to go, Stewart has just two top-five finishes in the playoffs and hasn't run nearly as well down the stretch as he did last season.
Not surprisingly, Stewart said the low point of his year has been running poorly at the same places he won in 2011.
"Not being good this time around was a little disappointing," he said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
So was Stewart discouraged about his prospects for next season after fighting through a slump at the end of this year? Not really.
The reason, he said, is the 2013 car will change so many things that "everybody kind of just starts over."
"I am discouraged we're finishing this way, but not because of what it's going to lead to next year," he said. "Everybody is going to start with stuff that is totally different package-wise than what we have: A totally new body – that's obvious to everybody – but things underneath the car, things guys are doing to the cars this year we're not going to be allowed to do next year.
"There's a lot of changes, and it's going to be a whole new learning process starting over at Daytona."
As for the high point in his season? Stewart cited his Las Vegas win as the top moment because he'd never won there previously. He also won the Fontana race and the summer Daytona race, but he's on pace to tie a career low for lead-lap finishes.