TONY STEWART Showtime at Charlotte KANNAPOLIS, N.C., (Oct. 14, 2010) - "Here comes the show." That's a phrase Tony Stewart has uttered on a handful of occasions when the racecar he's piloting is picking off positions left and right en route to...
Showtime at Charlotte
KANNAPOLIS, N.C., (Oct. 14, 2010) - "Here comes the show." That's a phrase Tony Stewart has uttered on a handful of occasions when the racecar he's piloting is picking off positions left and right en route to the lead. It's appropriate then as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway that Stewart's traditional No. 14 Old Spice/Office Chevrolet is sporting a "Showtime" paint scheme.
Stewart was the show last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. There, the two-time Sprint Cup champion rallied from his 22nd-place starting spot to lead three times for 27 laps, including the most important ones - the final 12 - to take his second win of the season, his first at Fontana and his first in the 10-race Chase for the Championship.
The performance vaulted Stewart from 10th to fifth in points, and he's a manageable 107 points behind Chase leader and four-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson with six races remaining.
The "Showtime" ride Stewart brings with him to Charlotte for Saturday night's Bank of America 500 has an impressive history. Stewart used Chassis No. 14-515 to win the 2009 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte, and in its four point-paying starts afterward, it's finished third (Indianapolis in 2009), 23rd (Darlington in May 2010), second (Pocono in July 2010) and first (Atlanta in September 2010).
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot "Showtime" Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You're fifth in points, 107 points behind Chase leader Jimmie Johnson. Can you still win this championship and collect your third career Sprint Cup title?
"My standpoint has always been, until they say that you're mathematically out of it, you always have a shot. We won the USAC Silver Crown Series championship in '95, and we were the third driver of three that had a shot, mathematically, to win it. There were two drivers, Jack Hewitt and Dave Darland, that were neck-and-neck in the point standings, and we were kind of the third wheel. We were only included in the group media sessions because we were mathematically in the hunt. Both of those drivers ended up having problems in the race, and we won the championship by two points. You realize when you use that experience, knowing that as long as you're mathematically in the hunt, you still have a shot. If we have a chance to win the championship at the end, trust me, we're all for that and we would love nothing more than that. But I think right now where we're at and how many points we need to make up, I think it lets us have a go-for-broke attitude and just go out and try to do what we did at Fontana and win races. I've always said, if you win races, the points will take care of itself. We could still, by theory, win the next six races in a row and still not win the point championship. For us, it's about going out and doing what we can do, and the other 11 drivers are going to dictate their fates, too."
After finishing 24th and 21st, respectively, in the first two Chase races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Dover (Del.) International Speedway, you rebounded in decisive fashion with a fourth-place finish at Kansas and a win last weekend at Fontana. What did those performances say about your Old Spice/Office Depot team?
"I'm really proud of Darian Grubb (crew chief) and all the guys on this Old Spice/Office Depot team. There is no quit in this team at all. We just keep digging. I don't care what it takes. I don't care if we have to go 12 laps down and have the right side knocked off of it, if it gets us a top-five at the end of the day, that's what we have to do the rest of the season. At the end of the day, no matter what the circumstance that got us behind, we've been able to rebound from it - not get all the way up to where we wanted, but we were able to make gains on it at the end and salvage a better finish than where we were. Whatever the scenarios were, we were able to overcome part of it. As long as you do that, then at the end of the day the facts just shows this team doesn't have any quit in them, and that's what it's going to take to get back on top."
Of the upcoming tracks in the final six races on this year's schedule, which one are you looking forward to the most?
"I think this weekend, in all reality. This weekend and Martinsville, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead are places where we've had a lot of success, but I think the way that we've ran the last couple of races at Charlotte here, we're pretty excited about it. I feel like we've got a shot at this weekend's race. If we can do what we've been doing, we've got just as good a shot as anybody else."
What does it take to be successful at Charlotte?
"It always seems like it's a battle of trying to get your car to cut through the center of the corner and keep the forward drive in it. It seems like it's a sacrifice of one or the other, but the two ends of the track are different. It seems like you can carry a lot more speed through (turns) one and two, and (turns) three and four are a little more thread-the-needle-type corners. Sometimes there isn't a big difference between the fall and spring races at Charlotte. They're spread out so far and they're at the beginning of summer and the end of summer, so a lot of times they can be very similar."