CHARLOTTE, N.C., (March 27, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (March 27, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, will make his second career start at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday's DirecTV 500.
En route to taking the 1999 Rookie of the Year title, Stewart notched the second of what would eventually be 21 top-10 finishes by scoring a solid sixth at Texas. Returning to the Lone Star State with a year's worth of experience under his belt, Stewart is poised to improve upon that sixth-place mark.
Despite the relative youth of Texas Motor Speedway, it's had quite a history of being a treacherous race track. Why is that the case?
"I've run there in a Busch car, an IRL car and in a Cup car with my Home Depot Pontiac. I never looked at it as a treacherous race track. It's so fast, and with the fresh pavement, it has a lot of grip in it. For some reason, it seemed that the track's transitions were very line-sensitive. The corners' exits and entries were very tricky, and that's what made Texas difficult. I don't think it's treacherous. You just have to hit your marks every lap. Texas doesn't leave a whole lot of room for error."
Before you raced at Texas in a Winston Cup car, you raced there in an Indy Racing League car. What was the difference?
"The IRL car was nothing like driving a stock car. You could go anywhere on the track with the IRL car that you wanted to, and you could run wide-open while doing it. It was as easy as riding down the interstate. Whereas with the Cup car, you're not off the gas very long, but you do have to lift. With the track being so line-sensitive, it's really important that you're doing the same thing every lap, and making sure you're very consistent in how you're driving the car."
Many drivers with many more years of experience have struggled at Texas, yet you qualified solidly in the first round and finished an even better sixth. Your rookie counterpart, Elliott Sadler, also performed well there, qualifying 13th and finishing a career-best 10th. Is Texas a track that suits people who have very little experience racing there, because there are no bad habits to break?
"I don't think so. I think it was a situation where we both got our cars driving well that weekend. We both got it right at the same time, and we both really raced well. It was a track where Elliott had run really well there in a Busch car, and with my knowledge of the track with the IRL car, it just helped both of us run well."
What kinds of tracks would you compare Texas to and why?
"It's like Atlanta and Charlotte, but it isn't. The entries at Texas are a lot tighter that what you have at Charlotte and Atlanta. The entries there, you can go in a lot higher and then come down to the bottom a lot earlier than you can at Texas."
Explain the perfect lap at Texas.
"I don't know. I haven't done that yet."
When you first visited Texas last year, how much input did you and crew chief Greg Zipadelli receive from teammates Bobby Labonte and crew chief Jimmy Makar?
"It wasn't just at Texas, but it was everywhere we went. We always got a lot of good input from them. We relied on their information all year."
TONY STEWART'S TEXAS PERFORMANCE PROFILE Year Event Start Finish Status/Laps Earnings 1999 Primestar 500 19 6 Running/334 $107,315