Stewart Seeks Three-Peat at Dover Downs DETROIT, May 30, 2001 - As the NASCAR Winston Cup Series prepares for the 13th event of the 2001 season, Pontiac's "WideTrack Attack" will be led by reigning race champion Tony Stewart, who is seeking his...
Stewart Seeks Three-Peat at Dover Downs
DETROIT, May 30, 2001 - As the NASCAR Winston Cup Series prepares for the 13th event of the 2001 season, Pontiac's "WideTrack Attack" will be led by reigning race champion Tony Stewart, who is seeking his third consecutive victory at Dover Downs.
Stewart and Pontiac are on a definite roll at Dover. The last time NASCAR's top tour visited Dover, Pontiac Grand Prix drivers Stewart and Johnny Benson swept the top two positions, while Bobby Labonte finished fifth.
The same three drivers are expected to be among the leaders again at the end of the 400-mile tilt on Sunday. Stewart, who has posted four consecutive top-five finishes in 2001, swept both races at Dover last year. During Stewart's four career starts at "The Monster Mile," he has notched a fourth, a second and the back-to-back victories.
If Stewart pulls off the "three-peat," he'll become just the fourth driver to do so at Dover. David Pearson won the fall race there in 1972 and then won both races in 1973. Rusty Wallace claimed the checkers in the 1993 fall event and added two more consecutive victories in 1994. Jeff Gordon was the last driver to complete a string of three in a row at Dover, winning in the fall of 1995 and twice in 1996.
With a victory Sunday, he would also become the second driver in the Winston Cup Series to hold an active three-race winning streak at one venue. Chevrolet driver Jeff Gordon claimed wins in the last three races at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
Thoughts From Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix
ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF EXTENDING YOUR WINNING STREAK TO THREE AT DOVER?
"It's a place that I'm looking forward to going back to, but the tire is different again. It can always change the variables around just as easy as anything can. We went and tested there and felt like we had a pretty good test, so I'm excited about going back. I would love to keep the streak going."
DID THE RECENT SPRING RUBBER RULE CHANGE MAKE YOUR TEST OBSOLETE, OR CAN YOU STILL BENEFIT FROM YOUR NOTES?
"I think we're still able to take quite a bit away from it. Our cars have always driven well there, so I don't think it's really going to matter to us which package they make us run. We'll adjust around it."
DOES TROUBLE HAPPEN FASTER AT DOVER?
"I don't think it's any worse there than anywhere else. Where the problems normally happen as far as accidents are concerned, it's not usually getting into the corners and through the center of the corner, but coming off the corners. The straightaways have so much banking that a car that crashes into the wall coming off the corner -- it's kind of a 'two-for-one special.' - you get the outside wall and then you slide down and hit the inside wall. That's where you can get into a lot of trouble as far as catching other drivers in the same accident."
AFTER THE MONTH OF MAY, IS IT GOOD TO GET BACK ON A REGULAR SCHEDULE AGAIN?
"Yeah, definitely. It's just going to be nice to get back to the normal deal. My schedule during the first half of the year is extremely busy. I'm really looking forward to the last half of the year. My schedule opens up and I get to do some things I want to do. I'll get more of a chance to relax and at that point, it will start getting a lot easier. "The reason we booked everything early in the year and tried to do as much stuff as we're doing is because since January 1st, I've felt like getting stuff done. I'm excited about getting it all done and getting it out of the way. That way I can focus on hopefully trying to get caught up in the points the last half of the year."
ON THE RESURGENCE OF JOE GIBBS RACING.
"We've done a lot of testing and we've tried a lot of things that we've never tried before, and some of it has helped. I'm not sure what the reason is. I just know we're doing better. We're not scared to try new things and I think with this tire you h ave to try things that are a little bit off par and a little bit different. Some other guys have already done that and been successful with it. It's not trying to re-invent the wheel, but you just kind of get stuck in a rhythm and get stuck with a certain way of setting the car up for different tracks. Now this tire has forced you to drive different, to set the car up different for that. I'm not sure we've got it yet, but I think we're getting a little better handle on it right now."
Thoughts From Johnny Benson, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix
ON RETURNING TO DOVER AFTER POSTING A CAREER-BEST TYING SECOND-PLACE FINISH THERE IN OCTOBER
"I enjoy going back there. It's a cool place and it gives me good memories. I won my first Busch race there and we obviously had a good run up there last fall. We actually ran good there both times last year, but cut a tire in the spring race and finished 15th. But, I'm definitely looking forward to it. I think we'll be OK up there again."
DOVER HAS THREE DISTINCT GROOVES - HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHERE TO RUN DURING THE DAY?
"That's simple. You pick the fastest one for you at that moment. On new tires you'll be on the bottom and as they get old, you move up. "That's one thing that great about Dover. It's great for the fans and it's good for a driver to have options as you get going around there. But the trick is picking a spot. You've got to set your car up for where you think that you want to run during the day. Then, if you can't quite get it there during the race, you move around. "You don't have to run the bottom there. Some guys like to run the top there and the wait until the top of the track comes in. I think on any given day, where the fast groove is may change. It just depends what the track conditions are at the moment."
IS SETUP MORE CRITICAL AT DOVER THAN OTHER TRACKS?
"No, I don't think so. Nowadays, you've got to be pretty good everywhere when that race starts and have some adjustability. I don't think that really changes anywhere."
CAN A DRIVER REALLY PACE HIMSELF ANYMORE IN A WINSTON CUP RACE, OR IS IT PRETTY MUCH WIDE-OPEN EVERY LAP?
"There were times in the past where you could hang out a little bit. But nowadays you've got guys that get with the program. The biggest thing is you've got to stay on the lead lap. Lately, everybody seems to be doing that. A lot of cars are staying on the lead lap now and it makes it very difficult when the end of the race rolls around."
Thoughts From James Ince, Crew Chief, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix
THE FIRST RUN OF A RACE IS ONE OF THE KEYS TO STAYING ON THE LEAD LAP. YOU HAVE TO BE GOOD RIGHT AWAY. HOW MUCH PRESSURE DOES THAT PUT ON A CREW CHIEF?
"I don't know if it is pressure so much, but it is an approach. It is something we pay attention to in 'Happy Hour.' "We get scared if we're the fastest car in 'Happy Hour.' That's not something we want to be. We want to make sure that we've got a race car that is in the top 15, that is adjustable, that is consistent and that runs good lap times. We don't put ourselves in that situation because it is the first run of the race that can kill you. A lot of times that you get a lot of speed in a race car might just be because of conditions, it might be where the sun is, it might be what the air temperature is. When you start the race, you may not have those things going for you. "We try to build in a safety barrier where our car might not be 'rocket ship' fast starting the race, but it's going to be there. That allows us a whole race to make it faster as we go."
IT ACTUALLY SCARES YOU TO BE THE FASTEST CAR IN FINAL PRACTICE?
"Most times in life if you think it's too good to be true, it probably is."