DETROIT (March 14, 2000) - Let's face it. Winning in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series these days is no simple accomplishment, anywhere, any weekend. But because of the challenges it offers both drivers and crew chiefs, Darlington Raceway raises...
DETROIT (March 14, 2000) - Let's face it. Winning in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series these days is no simple accomplishment, anywhere, any weekend. But because of the challenges it offers both drivers and crew chiefs, Darlington Raceway raises the level of difficulty that much more. Both Tony Stewart, driver of the Home Depot Grand Prix, and James Ince, crew chief for the Lycos Grand Prix, understand and respect the task that is in front of them whenever they travel to Darlington. For that reason, both agree a victory there this Sunday in the fourth race of the season would be a little bit sweeter.
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(WHAT IT MEANS TO RACE AT DARLINGTON) "Even though it's just my second year racing down here, I already have a feel for how important Darlington is to the people that have grown up around it. I didn't grow up around it, but I know that it feels to them the way the Indy 500 feels to me. Being able to be part of that feeling makes it a special place for me to race now."
(WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO WIN AT DARLINGTON) "The nice thing is you watch all these old races on Speedvision and you realize how important races at Darlington have been to this sport. To be able to win at Darlington is a great feat especially with the way the track is abrasive to the tires. It's a hard place to win, so when you can win there it really means a lot to you."
(ON HIS TEAM IMPROVING THIS YEAR OVER LAST YEAR) "I think the team itself is better. Whether I'm a smarter or better race car driver than I was last year, I don't know. But I can see the confidence on their faces each week. Just the efficiency they use in the garage as far as making changes and getting me right back out, they are really sharp this year. I feel like we are a lot more comfortable with each other than we were last year."
(WHAT IT MEANS TO NOT BE A ROOKIE ANYMORE) "The bottom line is last year we had an excuse. This year we have no excuses. Last year there was pressure on ourselves to perform. This year there is pressure from everyone else since we did it last year."
(FEELING HOW FAST HE IS GOING ON THE RACETRACK) "I don't have an internal speedometer yet. I've got a hard enough time telling whether the car is loose or tight right now, let alone determining how fast I'm going. After you run these things long enough you get an idea how fast your are going. To be perfectly honest you tell more about how fast you are going by the RPM of the motor and listening to the revs. You can tell from lap-to-lap whether you are five miles an hour slower just by hearing the revs of the motor. You can tell when they're down. It's mesmerizing because you run so many laps in the same pattern over-and-over. As the tires wear off you hear that tone change and it falls off. That's kind of your speedometer to a certain degree - just by listening to the revs in the car."
(ON WHETHER OR NOT WINSTON CUP RACING HAS BEEN BORING SO FAR IN 2000) "I'm a race car driver. How do we know? We're sitting in race cars. How could we tell what the show looks like, the question doesn't make sense to me. We 're out there racing our rear ends off every week doing the best we can do. How do we know what it looks like.we're in the cars. Ask the fans what they think. I'd ask them. We're in there racing, trying to make our cars go as fast as they can go. We want it to be the best show we can provide for the fans because without them we can't do this. We want to put on a good show. But asking us whether we think we are putting on a good show or not is like asking a baseball player whether he thinks he is putting on a good show. How do you know? Unless you are in the stands, you don't know."
(ADJUSTING TO BEING TONY STEWART, THE BUSINESS MAN) "I didn't go right out of high school into this business. The business end for me has always been the same, but the degree of it has changed very rapidly in all reality. But I have had five or six years to somewhat adjust to it. You never really feel like you're getting caught up because every year it multiplies and gets busier, and at the same time you're trying to catch up with it. I always feel like I'm a step-and-a-half behind it. But as long as I'm maintaining that distance and not losing ground to my own company, then I feel like in all reality that I'm gaining."
(WHAT IRRITATES YOU THE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB) "To be perfectly honest, not being able to meet everybody's demands. It's hard to please everybody. After being here a year I've talked to a lot of the drivers and they all say the same thing, 'You can't please everybody.' That's probably the hardest thing for me. I'm one of those guys that always tried to do everything I could to make everybody happy. It depresses me more than anything because I can't do that anymore. There are days that it has affected me in the car because somebody didn't get an autograph that they wanted. But I had to go because I had to be at the car or I had to be somewhere else. It's just hard to make everybody happy all the time and that is a hard thing to accept."
(WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT TONY STEWART) "That I like to be just one of the guys. I don't like to be put on a pedestal. I would love to be able to hang out with people and just hang out, and not be treated any different that anybody else."
JAMES INCE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 10 LYCOS PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(DOES DARLINGTON'S MYSTIQUE STILL EXIST) "Without a doubt. When they talk about it being the 'grand-daddy of them all,' it really is. There is a whole lot of history there. It is an awful neat place to go. Short of Daytona and going to Indianapolis, Darlington is a big thing for Winston Cup."
(CAN A CREW CHIEF WIN A RACE AT DARLINGTON) "Everything we do we do as a team. It takes every element of it. But I would say as a crew chief Darlington is the most comfortable place I go to on the circuit. Darlington is really a place where you can come up with a set-up that works. You've got guys that still haven't stumbled upon that and they struggle all the time. Once you get a set-up that works there and you can fine-tune on it, it's really important. That is a spring and a shock and a racecar racetrack. And it's equally challenging to the drivers. So I feel like we have a pretty good advantage going there based on the fact it's a place that Johnny likes. Generally I have a lot of fun at Darlington. I was there with Ted (Musgrave) the year we almost did it. I've had a lot of success there in a lot of areas. I don't recall - short of finishing a race - finishing out of the top 10."
(ONE PIT ROAD AT DARLINGTON) "I think it is a big improvement. It's got to be better. Naturally everybody is going that direction and that's the right thing to be doing. Darlington was probably the least worrisome place if you had to pit on the backstretch, as opposed to anywhere else that we go. I don't know that we'll notice that much of a difference. But it's definitely a confidence deal and I know it helps the drivers to know that at least they 've got a fair shot at coming down pit road. It was a bigger deal when they changed Rockingham than what I feel Darlington will be. It's just really nice to see them improving that facility so we can continue to race there."
(WILL IT AFFECT STRATEGY) "I don't believe it will affect the racing at all. I don't believe it will affect strategy at all. More or less I can't see it being that big a deal. We see guys every year that almost win from the backstretch."
(LEAVING THE 1999 POINT STANDINGS BEHIND) "I think that somewhat that is going to be a big factor for us. But on the same token, we're not going to do many things different. The advantage we have going to Darlington is that is one of Johnny Benson's favorite places to go qualify at. And as a crew chief it may be my favorite racetrack on the circuit just based on the fact it's an old worn-out racetrack that you've got to have your springs and shocks right. Definitely there is going to be a lot of pressure off of us on Fridays. But I don't think we're going to change the things that we do a whole lot come Sunday."