IRL: Road to the Championship

For Immediate Release ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP (NOTE: Tony Stewart leads Davey Hamilton, 254-244 in 1996-97 Indy Racing League driver points going into the season-closing Las Vegas 500k Oct. 11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Team Menard ...

For Immediate Release

ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP

(NOTE: Tony Stewart leads Davey Hamilton, 254-244 in 1996-97 Indy Racing League driver points going into the season-closing Las Vegas 500k Oct. 11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Team Menard (Stewart) leads A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Hamilton), 2,286-2,196 for the entrant title. This is the first in a series with the thoughts of the principals going into the final challenge.)

THE DRIVERS

TONY STEWART: "All championships are important. I haven't been in any division that didn't have good competition. This is the biggest, because of the exposure and money." (about previous title chases): "In '95, I clinched the (USAC) sprint division with two races to go. In the midgets, it was one race to go. In the Silver Crown, we were third in points and had to have big things happen. I had to have two guys drop out of the race, which they did. We had to finish in the top two and they had to finish 14th or worse. We went into that race thinking we were going to do he best we could. As long as you're mathematically in the hunt, you're never out." (about the IRL title chase): "It's kind of gratifying that it's the two of us (short-track veterans) in that position. But there are many guys here who could've been involved, from other backgrounds, or they wouldn't be here. It's nice to see it's a guy (Hamilton) I'm familiar with, a guy I'm friends with." (about being back in the pack at midseason): "In all honesty, we never worried about the championship. We worried about winning races. We got a lot of bonus points for the pole, the bonus for leading the most laps. That helped us. I don't remember when I noticed we had a shot. I guess when the media started talking about it is when we realized we had some potential." (about the importance of the championship): "It's more important for me to win this championship for these guys (the crew) than myself. When we were leading all the laps and having problems and dropping out...it's hard to bounce back from a situation like that and they've done it, week in and week out."

DAVEY HAMILTON: "It's gone the right way, that's the good thing. We've had our ups and downs but the team's come together and the hard work has paid off." (about the '95 month of May at Indianapolis, when he suffered a broken ankle, then a mechanical failure on a final qualifying attempt and missed the field): "When I left that month of May, I didn't know if I'd have a chance to drive an Indy car again. And I don't know that I would've if it hadn't been for the IRL."

DAVEY HAMILTON: (about when the championship became a possibility): "We took the point lead in Texas and obviously we had to think about it then, but there was a long way to go and I knew it was going to be tight. After Charlotte, when we lost the lead, I really started to think about it. It's a good thing we're still in contention and we can do it. We've done the best we can. Whatever happens, happens." (about past title chases in which he's been involved): "I've won 11 championships in my career. Some of them, we've come from behind, in the last races. This is the most important one, for sure. I want it, but I don't get worked up over it. When everyone's doing their very best, that's all you can do." (about not having a win this season and his chances for the title): I think they're (the chances) good. We haven't won yet, but we know we can. We've proven we can run up front. We've had two races where we've finished 16th and 17th and we're only 10 points behind. Charlotte (where he was out early in an accident) was really unfortunate, but it was one of those racing deals." (about his father, Ken, who briefly raced Indy-style cars during a long supermodified career): "I think he's excited. We haven't sat down and talked about it. This is what he wanted to be doing. It's some satisfaction that I've been able to. I think he's proud and happy one of us has made it this far. The thing he's taught me is how to race, how to finish and, most importantly, how to win." (about Stewart): "Tony's a good friend, a great race driver and one of the toughest guys to beat. Next weekend, we race together in Silver Crown cars." (about strategy for Las Vegas): "We definitely have to try to win this race to win the championship. If I was in Tony's shoes, it'd be different. In second, being behind, I have nothing to lose. I have to get every spot I can get. Mathematically, it could happen...we know it definitely can be done." (about driving for Foyt): "He knows what it takes, what equipment it takes, what people it takes, how to set the cars up. He gets the car handling. The last couple of races, he's given me (engineer) Ed Nathman to help us. A.J. puts the package together. My teammates...Scotty (Sharp) is a great teammate. He's helped me a lot, told me a lot of things you can and can't do in these cars." (about an advantage by working at Las Vegas Motor Speedway): "I'm used to driving out here every day. I wish sitting up in the office, looking down at the race track was an advantage. I hope it'll prove to be somewhat of an advantage."

..IRL97-52..

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Davey Hamilton , A.J. Foyt
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises