CHARLOTTE. N.C., (March 13, 2000) - After a tough day at Atlanta Motor Speedway where a crash took out Tony Stewart on lap 270 in the Cracker Barrel 500, the driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE. N.C., (March 13, 2000) - After a tough day at Atlanta Motor Speedway where a crash took out Tony Stewart on lap 270 in the Cracker Barrel 500, the driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix looks to right himself at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in the Mall.com 400. The track known as "Too Tough to Tame" has proved just that for many drivers, but for Stewart, it's a challenge he's ready for.
What makes Darlington such a difficult race track to drive?
"The consistency of the tires falls off because the track surface is so abrasive that during the second half of a run, you're two seconds slower than you were at the beginning of a run. So, the way that you drive the car is a lot different from the beginning of a run to the end of a run."
In relation to tire management, do you take the same approach as you would at Rockingham (N.C.)?
"Very similar, but it's probably harder at Darlington. Part of it is Darlington's layout. That, and there's usually two or three really good cars that hit on the perfect setup, and they force you to run harder than what you would really rather run."
It's been said that Darlington is a driver's track. Why is that?
"The way the tires fall off and the way that you have to change your driving style to compensate for what the tires lack at the end of a run. You've got to change your driving style each lap - change where you're lifting, how much you're braking, how much you're on the throttle. It all changes constantly every lap."
Harry Gant was known to run a high line around Darlington. Are there different lines that you can run at Darlington?
"Just depending on what you're car is doing you can run different lines. Some guys from the beginning of a run will race right up against the wall just because that's where their car feels good. It's not so much as the run goes on that you get closer to the wall, it's more dependent on how your car is handling. For instance, my Home Depot Pontiac may start up there, but there might be another guy who starts his run at the bottom of the track."
Do you remember when you received your first Darlington stripe?
"I think it was in 1996 with Harry Ranier's car in the Busch Series. I think it was just a stripe at the time. I grazed the wall up in (turn) two."
You tested at Darlington the Tuesday and Wednesday after Las Vegas. How did it go and what did you work on?
"We worked on qualifying runs, and the whole second day we worked on race runs. But the last run of the first day we worked on race setups for The Home Depot Pontiac. With the way the track is and how long of a race it is, I really wanted to concentrate on the race setup to see if we could make our car drive well for a long run instead of just the one fast lap that gets you in the race."
<pre> TONY STEWART'S DARLINGTON PERFORMANCE PROFILE Year Event Start Finish Status/Laps Earnings 1999 TranSouth Financial 400 10 6 Running/164 $44,240 Pepsi Southern 500 19 12 Running/270 $46,620