DETROIT, Sept. 19, 2001 - Pontiac drivers Tony Stewart and Ken Schrader, along with the rest of the NASCAR Winston Cup field, prepare to return to action at Dover Downs International Speedway this weekend after last week's terrorist attacks on the east coast of the United States. The attacks led to the postponement of most sporting events in the country, including the New Hampshire 300, which would have been run last Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway.
With an unscheduled and unwanted weekend off, Stewart and Schrader spent the time away from their regular duties as Grand Prix drivers in NASCAR's premier series and dealt with their own thoughts on what had transpired in the days before.
Sunday they will line up to run the 27th event of the 2001 season, and both drivers are optimistic about their chances in the 400-miler on Dover's high-banks. However, the two men are both very aware of what is happening in the world around them and are keeping their role in humble perspective.
Thoughts From Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU FEEL IT IS FOR THE WINSTON CUP SERIES TO RESUME ITS 2001 SCHEDULE THIS WEEKEND? "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 - they 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 RETURNING TO ACTION THIS WEEKEND, ARE WE HELPING TO SEND A MESSAGE THAT THE UNITED STATES WON'T GIVE IN TO THE WISHES OF THE TERRORISTS WHO COMMITTED THESE ACTS? "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 nothing else -- this has only made our country stronger.
"Just going about our business -- but at the same time making sure that we're helping the victims of this whole deal in any way we can while resuming as normal of a life as we can -- is in the best interest of this country."
Thoughts From Ken Schrader, No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix
WITH REGARD TO RACING IN DOVER THIS WEEKEND, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT WILL RETURN US TO SOME SEMBLANCE OF NORMALCY? "It may return us to some semblance of normalcy. But then again, who knows what normal is going to be anymore? That is something we'll have to determine over time. But, we are looking forward to going to Dover and getting going again."
YOU RACED SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE TRACK YOU CO-OWN IN PEVELY, MISSOURI. HOW TOUGH WAS IT TO MAKE TO DECISION TO GO FORWARD WITH THE SCHEDULED EVENTS AT THE SPEEDWAY? "It actually wasn't that tough, mostly because of the feedback we got from the fans. We got a lot of phone calls and every one we got was from somebody thanking us for racing, instead of saying, 'What the heck are you doing?' I think people were ready to do something."
YOU ALSO RACED ON FRIDAY AND SUNDAY IN OTHER PARTS OF THE MIDWEST. WHAT WAS THE MOOD OF THE PEOPLE YOU CAME IN CONTACT WITH? "I didn't really see a lot of people that were 'shell-shocked' because I think everyone had gotten over the initial shock from the first couple days. They were thinking more about the aftermath and what is potentially going to happen. "In the pits with the competitors, everyone there was in their own little world, just worrying about their car and their race at that moment. But it was definitely the topic for discussion.
"The biggest crowd of the weekend was the race on Sunday in Springfield, Ill. -- that race was a little bigger than ours on Saturday night. During the parade laps, you could just see the support of the people. It was pretty 'trick.'"