Fontana: Pontiac Racing - Tony Stewart interview

Winston Cup's first quarter profitable for Stewart. DETROIT, Mich., April 24, 2002 - If Pontiac driver Tony Stewart were a publicly-traded entity, he would be reporting a profitable first quarter and would still be rated as a "strong buy" as the...

Winston Cup's first quarter profitable for Stewart.

DETROIT, Mich., April 24, 2002 - If Pontiac driver Tony Stewart were a publicly-traded entity, he would be reporting a profitable first quarter and would still be rated as a "strong buy" as the series begins its second quarter at California Speedway.

With nine races in the books, Stewart has already visited victory lane and is ranked eighth in the current NASCAR Winston Cup points. Despite suffering three DNFs thus far, Stewart is still well ahead of last year's pace. The 2001 series runner-up has pushed his Grand Prix out front for 467 circuits this season - 437 more than the same period last season. His five top five efforts this season are four ahead of his production from the same period in 2001. And with 27 races to go, Stewart finds himself just 231 markers behind points leader Sterling Marlin, which is a 67-point gain for Stewart over 2001.

Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix:

HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR SEASON OVERALL?

"It would be easy to get hung up on the three DNFs we've got and in the heat of the moment, you do get hung up on them. But, those things that have happened to us are out of our control and I guess if we can't control it, then we can't worry about it.

"Overall, it's just been an uncharacteristic year for us, in all reality. If you look back at our past we've never gotten as good of a start to the year as we have this year. It's not even really anything that we've talked about with the racing, but we're all just happy. We don't know why it's happening. We just know that we're better. A lot of the directions that we started working toward last fall seem to be transferring over to the spring. A lot of the work that was done last fall and through the winter is obviously paying off."

HOW MUCH FUN HAS IT BEEN TO RUN AS WELL AS YOU HAVE THIS YEAR?

"It's been a blast, especially at this point in the season - compared to the first three years of my career in Winston Cup. It's nice knowing that we're running good right now and we're coming up to tracks where, historically, we get really strong. The month of May is typically when we start to hit our stride. It feels good knowing that we're staying close enough to the front that if we do like we've done in the past and really get hot from here to the end of the year, we're really got a shot at this championship. That's exciting."

YOU SEEMED TO ADJUST QUICKLY TO THE NEW GENERATION TIRE BEING USED.ARE YOU FAIRLY COMFORTABLE ON THEM?

"Yeah, I am. To be honest, I've been really proud of Goodyear. As drivers, teams and crews, we're the first people to criticize them if something is wrong. The hard part for them is that they can do testing with one team, but to keep 43 drivers and 43 teams happy is, at times, an almost-impossible task. But, they've really come through and produced a good tire.

"My complaint in the past was the feeling of instability and they've really addressed that issue. Quality control, from the 'freshness' standpoint - the tires are consistent run to run. That's all that a driver can ask for. From there it's just a matter of dialing your car in. But, at least the tires give you the security of knowing that when you go out there, that they're going to do the same thing twice."

IS CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY A CHALLENGING RACETRACK, WITH REGARD TO NEGATIVE AERODYNAMIC EFFECTS ON THE CAR?

"Not really, actually. It's so hot out there that you deal a lot with mechanical balance because the track gets so slippery. It will be a lot like Las Vegas, to a certain degree. But, I think that track will get hotter than Vegas did and make it a lot harder to get grip."

THERE IS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT WHICH TRACKS DESERVE SECOND DATES ON THE SCHEDULE AND WHICH TRACKS SHOULD ONLY HAVE ONE.WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT SCHEDULE IN YOUR EYES?

"It doesn't really matter to me. Now, if I had to race the cookie-cutter, mile-and-a-half ovals 36 weeks straight, I would commit suicide. But, if had to race at Bristol or Richmond or some of these other places that actually have their own unique personality and their own unique shape, I'd much rather do that. I think it will get to the day and age where eventually we might have 36 racetrack and we run at every one once a year. If that happens, I hope they're not all mile-and-a-half ovals. For some reason, these new racetrack owners have lost the ability to be creative. Bruton Smith has proven that you can put 145,000 people around a half-mile track, so a half- to a three-quarter mile racetrack is not going to keep you from putting a lot of people in the stands."

-pontiac-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Sterling Marlin