CHARLOTTE, N.C., (April 26, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (April 26, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, heads to California Speedway in Fontana after a much deserved weekend off.
However, it wasn't much of an off-weekend for The Home Depot pilot. Stewart spent the weekend in Las Vegas with his Indy Racing League team, Tri-Star Motorsports, where he served as crew chief for driver Dr. Jack Miller.
Now, Stewart returns to the stock car racing world for the NAPA Auto Parts 500.
Upon arriving in Fontana, Stewart and his Joe Gibbs Racing team will literally pick up the pieces after being involved in the "Big Wreck" two weeks ago at Talladega (Ala.). There, Stewart and teammate Bobby Labonte ran in the top-20 while biding their time to make a charge to the front. But with 50 laps to go, Talladega's traditional "Big Wreck" happened, collecting Stewart and Labonte before their game plan could come to fruition.
While Fontana may look similar to Las Vegas and Michigan, is it?
"It's a lot like Michigan. Las Vegas is sort of a track all its own. I'm not sure that it has the amount of banking that Michigan has, but it is a flatter track than Michigan. The way you approach the weekend is pretty much the same as far as setups on The Home Depot Pontiac go. You just don't have the banking to help you like you do at Michigan."
How much of a factor does fuel mileage play at Fontana, and what do you do to conserve fuel?
"Absolutely nothing. I'm not in charge of the Home Depot racing team's fuel mileage department. I'm in the driving department. Really, it's the engine tuners who work really hard during the weekend to try to get us the best fuel mileage as possible for the race."
Drivers have won at Fontana by taking two tires instead of four on their last pit stop. When and how do you make the decision to sacrifice tires for track position, or depending on the circumstances, track position for tires?
"I think it just depends on how your car is working. If your car is driving well, one that keeps you up toward the front all day because it's fast, then just two tires can keep you pretty quick. In that situation, you could make a big gain at the end by just taking on two tires and maintaining your track position. Even some guys who are behind and don't have their car the way they want, by taking on two tires, the track position they gain helps out more than four tires would. But when you get right down to it, I think Fontana is a track where if your car's good, then it doesn't matter whether you take two tires or four."
Some people might say that racing at Fontana is boring. What do you say?
"If a guy gets going and gets his car balanced, then he'll tend to run away. That's just the characteristic of that kind of track. It's fast, it's flat and momentum is so important there, that if a guy is off just a little, he's off a lot. The drivers like it from the standpoint that if you can find a way to get around it a little better, then it'll help them in the long run. You end up racing the race track instead of each other."
Do you spend any extra time in California with acquaintances from your sprint car days?
"I normally see a lot of them during both of our trips to California. That's part of the fun in going out to California and the West Coast - being able to see a lot of the guys that I raced sprint cars and midgets with. It always feels good to go back out there just from that standpoint."