CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Feb. 28, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Feb. 28, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in his racing career at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 1.5-mile oval served as the site for his 1997 Indy Racing League (IRL) championship. It was a special moment for the Hoosier pilot, as that championship day marked his one-year comeback from the hardest crash he had ever experienced in his 21 years of racing.
The Columbus, Ind., native sustained a broken pelvis, hip and collarbone and numerous contusions when his Dallara/Aurora IRL entry cut a tire and slammed into the outside retaining wall. Despite the severity of his injuries, the resilient Stewart was determined to get back behind the wheel of a race car. Approximately a month and a half later he was doing just that, testing a stock car at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
What has been your highest high and your lowest low at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
"Obviously the high was winning the IRL championship at the last race of the year in '97. The low definitely would've been in '96 in the first IRL race we ever had out there. I had the worst crash I've had in 21 years of racing. It was something that I didn't have any control over and couldn't have predicted that it would happen. There was no warning. The tire just went. I hit the wall backwards at about 215 mph. That was a painful experience. Vegas has just been one of those places that's either been really good or really bad. I either wreck there or win a championship. It's a place where we haven't found a happy medium yet."
(Stewart was involved in an accident in the 1999 Las Vegas 400 Winston Cup event when he and the Ford of Johnny Benson made contact. The Joe Gibbs Racing crew was able to make repairs to The Home Depot Pontiac, where Stewart soldiered home to a 36th place finish. - Ed.)
What does it take to get around Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
"It's definitely a momentum track. It's different from the mile-and-a-half ovals that you see at Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas because of the fact that it doesn't have as much banking. It makes it very critical that you're able to roll through the corners as fast as you can, obviously. It's that way everywhere we go. At Vegas, every little bit where you break your momentum in the center of the corner, it shows up a lot more than it does at a place like Atlanta, Charlotte or Texas. With the corners being as flat as they are, if our Home Depot Pontiac is just a little bit off, it'll show up big on the stopwatch."
Is Las Vegas Motor Speedway similar to California or Michigan Speedway?
"No. The corners are tighter. It's tighter coming off turn four and tighter going into turn one than it is at either Michigan or California. That's why the handling is so important there. Because the corners are tighter, it makes it really important that The Home Depot Pontiac rolls through there free, not tight or loose. It's a real important track in terms of balance."