Home Depot Racing NASCAR's Brave New World Begins at Dover ATLANTA (Sept. 18, 2001) - Life, as racers know it, attempts a return to normalcy this weekend at Dover (Del.) Downs International Speedway following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in...
Home Depot Racing
NASCAR's Brave New World Begins at Dover
ATLANTA (Sept. 18, 2001) - Life, as racers know it, attempts a return to normalcy this weekend at Dover (Del.) Downs International Speedway following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.
The running of Sunday's MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400 will be race number 27 on the 36-race NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule, and it comes following the postponement of last weekend's New Hampshire 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon.
The decision to postpone the New Hampshire race for Nov. 23 was widely accepted by the NASCAR community. In light of the tragic events, racing didn't carry the same priority level it did just a week earlier at Richmond (Va.).
Time, however, continues to press on. The stock market has reopened. Air travel has resumed. Planning for sporting events has reconvened. And all have occurred with significant alterations, NASCAR being no different.
At this weekend's race, heightened security will be evident. Fans will not be allowed to bring coolers, backpacks or large bags into the grandstands. Any items that are allowed will be subject to inspection by security officials upon entering the track.
Fans aren't alone, as race teams will have issues of their own to deal with, most notably where to land their private planes, and whether or not their hotel reservations will be kept.
In peacetime, nearby Dover Air Force Base was used for drivers, teams and sanctioning body officials to land and depart during the race weekend. That is no longer allowed due to security reasons. For Joe Gibbs Racing, that means flying into Sussex County Airport in Georgetown, Del., approximately 45 minutes south of the race track.
Hotels, always a hot commodity at Dover, have become even hotter. Government officials have reportedly asked some area hotels for rooms to accommodate the influx of military personnel. As of Monday evening, lodging arrangements for Joe Gibbs Racing remained unaffected.
Despite all of the changes and potential disruptions, members of The Home Depot Racing Team come to Dover ready to race. For driver Tony Stewart and crew chief Greg Zipadelli, the race carries far more meaning than just earning points and the possibility of a checkered flag.
TONY STEWART, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac
How important is it to get back to racing in light of the tragedies we've
"I'm not sure I'm the one who should decide that. I think the nation is who will decide how important this and other sporting events are for all of us. Part of the reason we're racing is that we don't want to disappoint anybody. Those who want to see a race this weekend and live their lives like they expect to should. Maybe a weekend off has given everyone some time to heal, and perhaps putting on a good show for the fans is what we need right now."
By racing this weekend at Dover, are we sending a message to whoever is
responsible for committing acts of terrorism against the United States that
we're not going to be scared by terrorism?
"I'd like to send my own message to them. I sure don't feel like crawling in a hole and hiding because of what these people have done. I think, if anything else, this has only made our country stronger. Just going about our business, but at the same time making sure that we're helping in any way we can the victims of this whole deal while resuming as normal of a life as we can, is in the best interests of this country."
How do you go about getting ready to race again?
"Well, we all had a weekend off that we didn't expect. With that, it gave us some time to regroup as race teams and drivers. It allowed us time to refocus even with everything that's happened. The time off has given us all a chance to think about what's really important in our lives. It actually makes it a little easier to go racing this weekend since we got a chance to take a break from all the mumbo-jumbo that goes on each weekend, the hectic schedule and just the fast-paced life we live. We've regrouped and refocused, and I think that's helped a lot."
If you win this weekend's race, what do you think your emotions will be
"I don't think I even know yet, to be honest. A lot of it will be dictated by how the race goes. If we get lucky enough to win it, how we win it will probably shape the way I feel."
GREG ZIPADELLI, crew chief on the #20 Home Depot Pontiac
How important is it to get back to racing in light of the tragedies we've
witnessed in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania?
"I'm not sure I want to say that we're here to make a statement for our country. We're going to move on. Everyone in the country is pretty much going to move on with their lives now. We're all going to try to deal with everything the best that we can. But everybody deals with things differently. Personally, to get back to racing will be good. But the safety situation of having a lot of people in one area - that's a tough one. I'd like to go there thinking that it's not even an issue. If it is an issue, than we probably need to rethink what we're doing. But my gut tells me that we're okay when it comes to sporting events. It can go on. It's business as usual for us, and at the same time it may help some other people deal with getting by, getting their mind of off things, and getting back to a somewhat normal life.
"We did the right thing by not racing last weekend. We basically relaxed, and for the weekend kept those families in our prayers. We let air traffic get caught back up and all the other stuff that needed to get sorted out by us not doing anything. We helped because we weren't a burden.
"If we went on with our normal life and went racing last weekend, there would've been people who wouldn't of had the time to stop and think about how easily that could've been one of us in Charlotte, or anywhere else for that matter. When you stop and think about it, it's scary. I think the country, by having the time to stop and think and talk about that, made things better. My wife and I talked a lot about it, as we had some family down over the weekend. I've got a newborn now, and all I wanted to do was to be with him. You would hope that you would never personally be in a predicament like so many people unfortunately were, but it just goes to show that you really don't know."
Is racing perhaps the best way for you to get back to a way of life that you
know so well? Do you think it will help others get back to their own way of
"I think we all took the weekend to grieve with the people who lost loved ones, families, fathers and mothers. Now, can we go back and do what we're paid to do? Can we go back and put on a good race? I think so, and maybe along the way we can help. Maybe sitting down and watching a race will get their mind of things for three or four hours. If that's what we can do by going racing this weekend, than it's the right thing to do. Now, I'm sure it won't help everybody. It might even upset some people. But there's a good bit of people out there I think it can help. The same is probably true with football and baseball. Sporting events are good for a distraction for some things that people are dealing with, and there are a lot of people dealing with some sad, tough situations right now."
Typically, you'll feel excited about going to a race track, particularly
Dover where you've won before. But how do you feel this time around?
"The passion and the love that I have for racing and all of motorsports, and it's true with the rest of my guys, makes us feel good about going racing. I am excited about going to Dover. We've had a lot of success there. Will it cover up the things in the back of our minds and what we saw on television? No, but it'll help us all cope with it.
"I can only have a feeling of what it's like to lose someone in that disaster. People who were at my wedding were in the first building on the 42nd floor and got out. They called my house and I talked to them some more over the weekend. So, I did know people who were there, like my cousin who lives six blocks from there. But I didn't lose anyone. So, it's hard for me to know what other people are dealing with. I just know that with the experiences I've had from this tragedy, racing is going to help me deal with it and move on as best as I can."
TONY STEWART'S DOVER PERFORMANCE PROFILE
Year Event Start Finish Status/Laps Laps Led Earnings
2001 MBNA Platinum 400 6 7 Running/400 2 $73,260
2000 MBNA Platinum 400 16 1 Running/400 242 $152,830
MBNA.com 400 27 1 Running/400 163 $158,535
1999 MBNA Platinum 400 24 4 Running/399 127 $63,205
MBNA Gold 400 3 2 Running/400 97 $88,875