CHARLOTTE, N.C., (May 2, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (May 2, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, returns to the race track that brought him his first career Winston Cup victory when he rolls into Richmond (Va.) International Raceway for Saturday night's Pontiac Excitement 400.
Stewart took the win in last year's fall race at Richmond, leading 333 of 400 laps. It was a dominating performance by the rookie driver, but it was merely the beginning to an incredibly strong late-season run. Stewart would collect two more wins on back-to-back weekends in November at Phoenix and Homestead (Fla.), while racking up four top-five and five top-10 finishes in the season's last nine races. During that span of races following the Richmond event, Stewart led a total of 339 laps en route to finishing fourth in the season-ending point standings and earning the Rookie of the Year title.
With Stewart and Co. having a roller-coaster year so far in 2000, with three top-five and six top-10 finishes being offset by three DNFs (Did Not Finish), they look to recapture the momentum that Richmond brought them during the final stages of their 1999 campaign.
Last year, Richmond seemed to be a track that you felt very comfortable with right from the start. Why was that?
"Having run the Silver Crown car and the midget there in the past didn't hurt. It was just one of those tracks that I liked. It's the only three-quarter mile track we run on all year, but for some reason, it's a size that I really enjoy running on."
What are some of the other types of cars you've raced at Richmond?
"The Silver Crown car, the midget and a Busch car. I ran second in a midget to Kenny Irwin there and I think I ran fifth or something in the Silver Crown car, but I can't remember what the years were off-hand."
How did those past experiences help you when you first visited Richmond in a Winston Cup car?
"I knew where all the bumps were on the race track. It was just a matter of adjusting to what the The Home Depot Pontiac wanted - knowing how to drive the car and letting it do what it wanted to do, instead of trying to force it into something that it didn't want to do."
Is Richmond similar to any other tracks that you've raced on in your career?
"It just reminded me of some of the shorter tracks that I've run. It had kind of the same feel that quarter-mile tracks did with some of the other cars that I've run with. It wasn't a big drastic change. It was like Phoenix the first time I went there. I hadn't been to a one-mile oval but once in my life, but when I got onto Phoenix, I adjusted and adapted to it really quick. It was a place where I became very comfortable right away. I had that same feeling when I went to Richmond for the first time with The Home Depot car. I think every driver has a track that they go to where they get that same feeling. There are just some places that you go to where you adjust, and it really suits your driving style."
Because you've won there, do you have higher expectations going into Richmond, or do you treat it as just another points-paying race?
"I think that with the way our season is going, we have to look at it like it's just another race. But it's going to be hard to not have in the back of your mind that this is where you won your first Cup race and expect to run well. I'm not sure we'd go in there and expect to win again. I think we've got a shot to win, but to go there and expect it - we don't do that. But we do expect to run well and hopefully contend for the win."