Richmond: Tony Stewart preview

TONY STEWART Get Rich Quick Scheme at Richmond ATLANTA (April 30, 2008) -- Tony Stewart has won over $67 million in his 10 years competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Granted, the money isn't all his, as substantial portions have gone to...

TONY STEWART
Get Rich Quick Scheme at Richmond

ATLANTA (April 30, 2008) -- Tony Stewart has won over $67 million in his 10 years competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Granted, the money isn't all his, as substantial portions have gone to Joe Gibbs Racing -- the team that has fielded Stewart's No. 20 Home Depot machine since he debuted as a rookie in February 1999 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

Still, Stewart has done quite well, thanks in large part to two Sprint Cup championships, 32 point-paying victories, six non-point wins and 122 top-fives and 196 top-10s in 329 career Sprint Cup starts.

Three of those point-paying victories, along with six top-fives and 12 top-10s, have come in 18 career Sprint Cup races at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, site of Saturday night's Crown Royal presents the Dan Lowry 400.

Stewart has gotten rich quick at Richmond simply by being quick. The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota has led a total of 792 laps at Richmond -- 11 percent of the 7,192 laps available to him. And its seemingly always been that way, for Stewart's first career Sprint Cup victory came at Richmond in September 1999, when he absolutely dominated by leading 333 of the 400 laps (83.2 percent).

Stewart returned to Richmond's victory lane in May 2001 and 2002 when he scored his 10th and 14th career Sprint Cup wins, respectively. And after his third Sprint Cup win at Richmond, Stewart came back in September 2002 to notch his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series triumph. Stewart successfully defended that victory by making his fifth trip to Richmond's winner's circle after taking the checkered flag in the 2003 Truck Series race.

In all, Stewart has raced a Sprint Cup car, a Craftsman Truck, a NASCAR Nationwide Series car, a USAC Silver Crown car and a USAC Midget at Richmond, and taken an impressive $2.25 million in purse money from Richmond's coffers.

And as Stewart gets ready to make his 19th career Sprint Cup start at Richmond and the 330th of his Sprint Cup career on Saturday night, he'll do using a get-rich-quick scheme that actually works -- his heavy right foot.

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing:

With three Sprint Cup wins and two Craftsman Truck Series wins, you've had a lot of success at Richmond. Is it one of your favorite tracks?

"It is my favorite track. It's not one of them, it's the favorite track of mine on the circuit. I've won two Truck races and three Cup races there. It's where I got my first win. It's definitely a place I enjoy coming to, and considering how it factors into the Chase, it's definitely an important stop for us."

You've run well this year, as you've spent more laps in the top-15 than any other driver, yet you don't have the results to show for your efforts. Does that get you and the team down, or does it make you and team more determined to get that next win?

"We don't settle for anything less than winning races. When we know that we let one slip away, that's something that we do let ourselves get down about, but that's also what got us 32 wins and two championships. We have such a high standard of what we feel our performance should be on the race track. I think that shows the caliber team that we have."

Does coming so close and not winning put additional stress on the team, or does it give the team more incentive to win because they know they're right on the cusp of getting that first win?

"That's just how competitive we are. Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and I have been through the thick and the thin together, but that's why we're a perfect driver/crew chief combination. We understand each other well. We have the same passion, the same desire, the same frustrations. We're on the same playing field, side by side, on the way we think and feel about things. Not winning might add a little bit of stress, but if you look at Zippy's past before he came to NASCAR, he was pretty successful. I had good fortune before I came here. I think we've both had good fortune since we've been here. It's personalities. We're not two guys that are going to sit back and be happy with second or third. If that's detrimental, then that's what it has to be. That's just who we are. We can't change that."

How long does it take you as a driver to accept your finishing position?

"It depends on the day. If you've run between fifth and 10th all day, and at the end of it you get to third, you're pretty happy about it. If you've been leading the race all day and you end up third, you're disappointed about it. It depends on the circumstances that led up to it. There's days that it goes both ways. It just depends on the scenario leading up to it."

How much has it helped not having to work with two different types of cars this year?

"I don't think it's been a big deal for the drivers, but I know it has been huge for the race teams and the crew guys not having to have two different sets of equipment for two different types of cars. It's allowed everybody to focus on this car versus dividing your attention 50-50 on two different types of cars."

What's the biggest difference between the current generation car and the car you used to run?

"These cars don't have near the downforce that our cars had last year. With the limited amount of shock travel in the front, you're hitting bump rubbers, and last year we weren't allowed to have bump rubbers. It doesn't float around the race track like it used to. It's a lot harsher ride."

Short track racing has been known for beating and banging, where contact between two cars usually results in at least one car getting spun out. But has the current generation race car, with its common nose and rear bumpers, changed that dynamic?

"It has. With these cars you don't have the kinds of accidents where guys get turned around because the bumpers on all these cars match up so well. If you get in a situation where a guy checks up in front of you and you run into him by accident and the guy behind you hits you, you're not going to spin each other out. That's made short track racing fun again. You're not worried about having to explain to somebody that whatever contact you had was an accident. And short tracks aren't cookie-cutter. They're all one-of-a-kind and they all have their own personality."

Richmond is the first of four straight race weekends where the race begins in the late afternoon daylight and then ends well into the evening. As a driver, how do you adjust from dealing with the setting sun to then running under the lights?

"What you'll do is either run a clear visor or you'll run an amber visor, and you'll have colored tear-offs on top of it, and we can pull those off as the sun goes down. That gives us the ability to use some tinting without using a tinted visor that we're stuck with for the whole night. That makes it easy, and especially for us dirt track guys that are used to pulling them off anyways, it's no big deal.

"As far as the track is concerned, from day to night it normally just gains a lot of grip and normally it doesn't change the balance of your car. It just gets faster as the surface temperature cools down. Wherever your balance is, whether you're loose or tight, you just gain more grip and go faster."

Sunday after the Richmond race you'll be back at a race track -- Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway for the ARCA race. What are you going to be doing there?

"I'm going to wave the green flag and Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) is going to drive the pace car during the parade laps. It should be pretty cool. I always liked that track and I'm glad to see that racing has returned to there."

What is your most vivid memory from Rockingham?

"Probably the Busch Series race back in 1998. Matt Kenseth and I were racing pretty hard, and both of us were looking for our first Busch Series win. I didn't know Matt, and he really didn't know me. What I remember most about it is that I basically burned my tires off, and Matt did a better job of managing his tires for the length of the run. I didn't do a very good job of getting through (turns) three and four on the last corner of the last lap and he gave me a little nudge. He could've hit me hard enough to crash me, but he didn't. He just barely nudged me up out of the way and I ran second and he won. He was a gentleman about it, but he did what he had to do to win, and if the roles were reversed, I would've done the same thing that he did. Looking back, we both had good days there."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing