Sonoma: Pontiac Racing - Stewart, Benson interview

First road course test means great opportunity for Pontiac. DETROIT, Mich., June 18, 2002 - When Pontiac driver Tony Stewart triumphed on the road course at Sears Point Raceway last season it marked Grand Prix's first trip to victory lane at...

First road course test means great opportunity for Pontiac.

DETROIT, Mich., June 18, 2002 - When Pontiac driver Tony Stewart triumphed on the road course at Sears Point Raceway last season it marked Grand Prix's first trip to victory lane at that venue since 1990. This weekend Stewart and the rest of the "WideTrack Attack" will look to make it two in a row at Sears Point for the first time ever.

According to Stewart, who has already won twice this year on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, a weekend of road racing is a welcome break from the oval-track routine. It is also a chance for Stewart to chip away at the 229-point deficit he faces in the series point standings at a track that has delivered him three top-five starts and two top-10 finishes in three races.

Thoughts From Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix:

DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO ROAD RACING OR DO YOU JUST TOLERATE IT? "I like it. I've always said it from day one - it's nice to have something that is a little bit of a change from our normal daily grind, so to me, it's a lot of fun to go out and run a couple road courses a year."

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF ONE OF THE ELITE ROAD RACERS IN THE GARAGE AREA? "I don't know if I'd say 'elite.' We've always run good at Sears Point. We've always run in and around the top five, even going back to my rookie year, and then last year we won.

"There is just something about Sears Point. We really run well out there. I don't know if that puts us in an elite group or not. It's just a track that we feel like we have a shot at winning at every time we go."

IS IT NICE TO LEAVE THE MAJORITY OF THE AERODYNAMIC ISSUES BEHIND FOR A WEEKEND? "It is. It's very nice to go there and not have to worry about all the aero garbage that we talk about each week. The thing about our sport is that we shouldn't be talking about aero each week, but unfortunately that is the direction that our sport is taking and it's taking a lot of the fun out of our racing because of that. This week will be a nice break from that."

DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS AS TO HOW TO ELIMINATE SOME OF THE AERO ISSUES? "Every time NASCAR makes a change, they should quit adding (downforce). When we make a change to the cars it should be in the direction of subtracting. Every time we add downforce it equals out the competition, which NASCAR is very good at doing. They are very good at making adjustments to the cars to even out the competition. But, what we need to start doing when we make a change is subtracting, instead of adding. If a particular manufacturer is a little bit ahead of everybody else, take away from that manufacturer instead of adding to everybody else. I think if we start working in that direction it will get back to normal eventually."

WOULD THAT PUT MORE OF THE RACE BACK IN THE DRIVER'S HANDS? "Sure. Any time you take downforce away you're making the teams and drivers work harder on mechanical balance, which is what we should be worrying about each week and not worrying about aero balance. Hopefully, that is something they'll look at and make adjustments for in the future."

Thoughts From Johnny Benson, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix:

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR SEARS POINT? "We're looking forward to it. We were running fifth out there last year when I decided to speed down pit road, apparently, so that knocked us back a little bit. But, we're looking forward to it.

"Hopefully with some of the new rule changes and the same care that we had a year ago, we'll be OK."

DO YOU THINK THE AERO RULES THAT WENT INTO EFFECT AT MICHIGAN COULD HAVE AN IMPACT AT SEARS POINT? "I think so. You always need downforce. It's something that you can use at every track we run - not just places like Michigan and Charlotte. It's got to help on road courses, too."

DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO ROAD RACING OR DO YOU JUST TOLERATE IT? "It's difficult to say. Road racing is something that we only do twice a year and you've really got to do a lot of preparation for just those two races. It's two different cars that you use at Sears Point and Watkins Glen, so there is a lot of effort put into it.

"Do I like road racing? Yeah. Do I wish it was on the schedule? No - not as a points race. It would be great to have them on there as non-points races. I think it would be a lot more fun."

DO YOU STILL LEARN ON THE ROAD COURSES EVERY TIME YOU GO BACK? "It's tough. It seems like every time you go back you're learning something. But, I don't really think you're learning as much as you're just remembering what you forgot from the year before. In Sears Point's case, they've pretty much changed the track every time we've gone back, so you've got to adapt to the new changes."

-pontiac-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Johnny Benson