A&E and SHR Bring ‘The Glades’ to KC
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Other than the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers in downtown Kansas City, water is probably the only connection Kansas City has to South Florida’s River of Grass, better known as the Everglades. But this weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into town for the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway, that all changes.
Tony Stewart is literally bringing the THE GLADES from South Florida to East Kansas in the form of his No. 14 Chevrolet Impala. The 800-horsepower stock car fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will carry the design and colors of A&E’s original-scripted drama series THE GLADES throughout the Kansas race weekend.
I still don’t need to quit my day job ...
Stewart shot a cameo for an upcoming episode of THE GLADES at Homestead-Miami Speedway that’s slated to air June 26, and in doing so, befriended lead actor Matt Passmore, who stars as Jim Longworth, an attractive and brilliant Chicago homicide detective with a reputation for being difficult. (As many media covering motorsports can easily imagine, Stewart and Passmore’s character are kindred spirits.)
Season two of THE GLADES debuts Sunday night on A&E just a few hours after the checkered flag drops on the Sprint Cup race at Kansas. Ideally, NASCAR fans and followers of THE GLADES can catch Stewart doing what he typically does at Kansas – running up front and winning – before turning into THE GLADES at 10 p.m. EDT/9 p.m. CDT.
The late-evening airing of THE GLADES might be to accommodate Stewart, who twice in his 10 visits to the 1.5-mile oval off I-70 has spent the afternoon/evening celebrating in victory lane. Stewart scored his first Kansas win in 2006 and knocked down a second victory in 2009. Among those wins are five top-fives and seven top-10s with a total of 132 laps led.
It’s obvious Stewart has solved the nuances of Kansas Speedway’s D-shaped layout. While unremarkable at first glance, Kansas provides multiple racing lines for drivers to wring the most from their racecars. And with different lines on the track, rubbing fenders and trading paint isn’t out of the ordinary.
As such, the track provides a connection to THE GLADES, which is set in the sleepy, middle-of-nowhere town of Palm Glade, outside of the Florida Everglades, where sunshine and golf are plentiful and crime is seemingly at a minimum. But Longworth, jettisoned to Palm Glade after a falling out with his police captain back in Chicago (his captain wrongfully accused him of sleeping with his wife and subsequently shot him!), Longworth soon finds out his new town isn’t quite as idyllic as he originally thought, when murders keep piling up. Each case pulls him off the golf course and reluctantly into his element as one of the sharpest homicide detectives to wear a badge.
With 39 career Sprint Cup wins and two championships, Stewart is one of the sharpest drivers to don a firesuit. And at Kansas, he’ll have Passmore, a.k.a. “Longworth,” riding along in spirit through 400 white-knuckle miles of racing. Just as the duo teamed up nearly two months ago, they’re back in action again this weekend, with a race slated for 1 p.m. EDT on FOX and THE GLADES drama scheduled for 10 p.m. EDT on A&E.
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 “The Glades”/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You made your acting debut when you shot a cameo for THE GLADES in April at Homestead-Miami Speedway. How do you think you did?
“Well, no one threw the clapboard down or walked off the set, so I guess I didn’t do too bad. Actually, it was pretty cool. When I got the script, I thought there was no way I could memorize all the lines, and I was right. It was like a page-and-a-half of lines. I kind of knew them, but not well. But the director would feed me the beginning of the line and I’d pick it up and go from there. Then, as the dialogue between me and Matt (Passmore) increased, I was sort of able to feed off him. I was nervous at first, but everyone made me feel really comfortable and after that it seemed somewhat normal. I still don’t need to quit my day job anytime soon, but it was fun.”
The director was Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander William T. Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Did you know that’s who it was when he started working with you?
“I didn’t know until someone told me, and then I was like, ‘Oh yeah.’ That’s what he’s doing now, directing. He seemed to be pretty good at it. He put me at ease and anytime I had a question he was right there helping me out.”
Had you done anything similar to this cameo for THE GLADES?
“I’ve done a lot of commercials for sponsors, and I once did a 3 Doors Down video with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., but this was probably the most involved bit of acting I’ve done. I was definitely out of my element. In a racecar, I know exactly what I’m doing, and even when something crops up that you didn’t anticipate, experience tells you what kind of action you need to take. But acting’s a different deal. I just haven’t done a lot of it. For Matt (Passmore), it was second nature, probably what driving is for me. He was good, and him being a professional helped me raise my game as best as I could.”
Kansas has been around for more than 10 years now. How has the track matured?
“It seems like in the last couple of years it’s really come around. It’s seasoned and it’s gotten to where we can get off the bottom and move around the racetrack more. That’s what you want as a driver. That’s what the teams want. You don’t want to be stuck following guys and not being able to move around and pass. It just makes you confident that you know you have options when you go into the corner where you can help yourself out as a driver. It makes this place a lot more fun to race when you’re able to move around and find different grooves.”
How decisive was the call by your crew chief, Darian Grubb, to take two tires instead of four on your final pit stop to win the 2009 race at Kansas?
“Darian made a great call getting two (tires), and the guys had an awesome stop. That was really what it boiled down to. We got that track position at the end, and we had the luxury of being able to pick the inside or outside lane on the restart, and I kind of debated back-and-forth which side I needed to be on. But I kind of struggled when I was stuck on the bottom on restarts. So, I took a gamble and went to the top and got enough of a lead on Kasey (Kahne) to get down to the bottom that by the time we got to (turns) one and two, I was able to run my line. We got enough of a gap right off the bat that it gave me the flexibility to run my own line, run my own pace and let those guys have to worry about catching us.”
We were able to take the chance ...
But Jeff Gordon was catching you toward the end of the race. How did you hold him off?
“We just kind of ran our pace. When somebody starts running you down, it’s easy to over-drive your car trying to maintain a gap, and you end up making it worse on yourself. So even though I saw Jeff getting bigger in the mirror, I didn’t want to burn the tires off of it in case we got a caution and we got a green-white-checkered, so we just ran hard enough to not abuse the tires. It’s like he could get so close and then he couldn’t get any closer. When he got up there, he got tight, and he had to run pretty hard to get by Greg Biffle, and then to run us down. By then, he pretty much got the good off his tires and we got the luxury to kind of, on that restart, run our own pace and take care of it and make sure we made it last the whole way.”
It was pretty different from your other win at Kansas back in 2006, when you won it on fuel mileage.
“It was a battle between the driver and the crew chief. The crew chief is yelling at you every lap to save fuel, but you’re not slowing down enough and he knows it because he’s looking at the stopwatch.
“When you’ve got guys behind you, you know you don’t want to give those spots up in case they happen to make it on fuel. So, I tried to save as much fuel as I could and still hold guys off.
“We were able to take the chance because we had nothing to lose. Not being in the Chase that year gave us that opportunity to take the chance and go ahead and run for it.”
When you took the checkered flag you were out of gas. What were your thoughts inside the car when you knew you had run out?
“When we were coming down the backstretch, I asked how many laps we had left and they said, ‘You’re coming to the white (flag).’ Then I saw the needle start bouncing and it wasn’t on zero, but it was down to three pounds and bouncing up and down. We came down the frontstretch and it started losing pressure when we went into turn one. Then it caught up for a second, but as soon as we came off turn two, it lost pressure immediately. It’s just important to get it kicked out of gear right away and just get down low on the racetrack and take the shortest distance around. We just coasted around and hoped we had enough of a lead to stay out front. Turned out we did.”
You seemingly had the race won at Kansas back in 2007, only to see it turn 180 degrees and end up with a 39th-place finish.
“That was just circumstances. We were able to win a fuel mileage race there where we really weren’t in a position to win, but because of our situation in the point standings, we were able to gamble and go for it. Somebody else that day lost a race they should’ve won, and that year may have been one of those for us. But it all comes out in the wash and it all averages out eventually.”