Tony Steward Interview

>From NASCAR Public Relations and Pontiac Racing Charlotte Motor Speedway May I7, 1996 >From an interview with Tony Stewart, driver of the Ranier-Walsh Racing Enterprises Pontiac. Steward will attempt to become the first NASCAR Busch Series...

>From NASCAR Public Relations and Pontiac Racing

Charlotte Motor Speedway May I7, 1996

>From an interview with Tony Stewart, driver of the Ranier-Walsh Racing Enterprises Pontiac. Steward will attempt to become the first NASCAR Busch Series driver to run both the Red Dog 300 at Charlotte Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 the following day. Stewart, 24, qualified second for the Indy 500 in time trials last weekend. A rookie on the NASCAR Busch Series circuit, Stewart has three starts this season with a high of 16th in the Goody's 250 at Bristol.

Tonny Steward said, "My season started with just the Busch Grand National schedule and then I acquired the Menard ride for the IRL, this season. We've had to do quite a bit of jockeying with our schedules to do both up to this point. We had already decided we wanted to run the Charlotte race when the IRL ride came about. With the month of May coming up, we kind of had to juggle the schedules around. It's been a little bit of a tap dance trying to make sure where I need to be on time. The nice thing about it is that we don't start anything at Charlotte until what they call 'Carburetion Day' at Indianapolis the Thursday before the race (Indy 500) I'll be up here for the first half-hour of Carburetion Day,' and then I'll fly down to Concord to practice and qualify in the first round with the Busch ear. Then I'll be down in Charlotte for the remainder of the weekend until Saturday night."

HOW DID YOU GET THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEWDAY TO WAIVE THE 24 HOUR RULE? "They do have what they call a '24-hour rule' that says you can not compete in any motor racing event 24 hours prior to the start of the Indianapolis %00. Tony George had to make special provisions for me to be able to go down and run the Busch race at Charlotte."

THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 IS THE LAST RACE OF THE IRL SEASON. YOUR STOCK CAR SCHEDULE PICKS UP AFTER THAT. ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IT?

"I'm very much looking forward to it. Our schedule gets a little more aggressive after the month of May. I'm excited to be with Harry Ranier and having Gary Snipes as a crew chief I'm really looking forward to getting back in a stock car and running in that car a lot more than I have been the last couple of months. I'm hoping we'll be good. It seems like every race I ran we were getting better and better. I'm looking forward to the second half of the season."

WHEN TO YOU THINK YOU WILL GO TO WINSTON CUP? WILL YOU STICK WITH ONE SERIES?

"As far as a timetable, we really haven't set a timetable. You really can't set it based on the comfort factor. You just don't mover right up to Winston Cup racing. NASCAR is so competitive, and the Busch Series is so competitive. You really have to take your time and make sure you're ready before you make your move. It's a situation where Harry understands that I've got a learning curve to go through If we have a really good last half of the season, and I'm getting used to the cars and adapt well, then there's a possibility we'll go Winston Cup racing next year The nice thing is, if I don't feel comfortable by the end of the season, he's not going to push me and say, 'Well, we're goring to go ahead and go next year.' We'll go back and run the Busch schedule again. As far as which racing series I prefer right now, I've kind of been like Dieon Sanders. I can do both right now. I ran 106 races last year, and the more races I can run, the better 1'11 feel right now. We'll run around 15 Busch Series races this year."

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO DO BOTH RACES? "In our eyes there was no doubt we were going to try and do both. Until Tony George allowed US to do both it was really in his hands. But we felt pretty confident he would help us run both "

HOW LONG HAS THE 24 HOUR RULE BEEN IN EFFECT? "I don't know exactly how long that rule has been in effect, but I'm going to guess at least 20 years. The reason why they have that rule is when guys like A J Foyt and Mario Andretti would try to run three races the night before the 500. That's why that rule came into effect. The way Tony George explained it to us, that rule was put forth for that reason, but now we're in the 90's, and there's a set of different circumstances."

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE IT BETWEEN THE TWO PLACES? "We're still working on the transportation end of it. We're going to have to get a Lear jet, and both Tony George and John Menard have Lear jets. We'll get one of those to help us out in getting down to Charlotte. But once I get down to Charlotte Thursday, I'll be able to stay down there until after the Saturday race. As far as the scheduling goes, it's really not too bad. The only time I really get into a bind is on Thursday."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE THE FIRST DRIVER TO WIN A BUSCH SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP OR WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP, AND AN INDY 500? "I've always set the goal in that whatever division I was running at that time I wanted to be the best I could be. As far as comparing me to Jeff Gordon, I haven't won a Winston Cup championship yet. The weird thing about Jeff's career and my career is that we've run almost identical stuff. Jeff started out in quarter-midgets, and then moved to sprint cars at 14. I started out running go-karts. Basically his steps happened earlier in age. We're two months apart in age, and it seemed like in each racing category about the time he was moving out, I was moving into that division. We were just kind of a step apart from each other. I look toward to racing him someday.:

WAS THERE ANY DOUBT THAT USAC WOULD NOT ALLOW YOU TO RUN BOTH RACES? "I as very concerned, actually. Rules are rules, and I didn't know how it would all pan out. I was pretty confident they would let me do it, but I didn't know how it would happen. It was a big concern for the Ranier-Walsh Racing team, and especially with us on the Indy-Car team because they realized I had an obligation to run the stock cars. We were all pretty concerned about it, but confident we could get it done."

IT IS BETTER TO HAVE THE BUSCH RACE BEFORE THE 500? "Actually the day of the Busch Grand National race I'll miss a lot of activities at the speedway. They have the 500 Festival Parade and all the drivers sit in convertibles and ride in the parade. There are a lot of activities I'm going to miss. I feel like I'm better off driving the race on Saturday. I feel like the last two seasons, especially last year when I drove 106 races, I felt the more I raced the better I was. Even though the race is the day before. I don't think it's going to hurt me any. I'll be able to f night the race at Charlotte and fly back home, and get back home at a very reasonable hour to get in a good night sleep, and be able to run the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday."

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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About this article
Series NASCAR SPRINT CUP
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Tony George , Tony Stewar