Tony Stewart: No Points? No Problem. ATLANTA (May 12, 2003) - The running of The Winston Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway is a non-points dash for cash, and as far as Tony Stewart is concerned, it couldn't come at a better...
No Points? No Problem.
ATLANTA (May 12, 2003) - The running of The Winston Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway is a non-points dash for cash, and as far as Tony Stewart is concerned, it couldn't come at a better time.
Point races as of late have not been kind to the Home Depot Chevrolet driver, as Stewart has fallen from second in points to 17th during the past six races. But The Winston offers a slight reprieve from the burden of accumulating points. It's an event where winning is all that matters.
Money - lots of money - takes the place of points in The Winston, with a record $1 million payout going to the victor. To put that number in comparison, there is only one other race on the Winston Cup schedule that pays more than a million dollars to win - the Daytona 500. Coming in a distant second is the Brickyard 400, which paid out $449,056 to last year's winner Bill Elliott.
The race is also a fan favorite, as drivers tend to race on the ragged edge since there aren't any points to be won or lost. The pile of cash that sits in victory lane is also a pretty good motivator for the elite, 24-car field. Year after year, it proves to be a stirring combination.
The winner of The Winston will take home $1 million. How does that sound?
"It sounds great. There are a lot of things I can do with a million dollars, and a lot of bills I could pay off too."
Can The Winston be used as a test session for the Coca-Cola 600?
"Absolutely. It always is. If your car is driving well, you're running for a million dollars. But if your car isn't driving well, you're learning from that and applying it to the 600 instead. I've always looked at it as however your car is driving in The Winston is relatively true to how your car is going to drive in the 600. I've always felt like it's a really good test because it's really the only time we have to run at night in race conditions."
With all the talk of schedule realignment and heading into new markets, is The Winston still needed?
"I don't think we need to add another point race to replace The Winston. I think it's nice to dedicate a weekend to the race fans. We put on a race for them where we're not worried about points. We're all hanging it out every lap, instead of three-quarters of the way through the season, where some guys are hanging it out while half the field is points racing. It's good to have one evening where we all just get up on the wheel and put on a good show for the fans."
Is The Winston less pressure-filled and more fun because there are no points to be won or lost?
"It's as fun as Winston Cup racing can be, and I think that shows. The fans obviously seem to like it."
Do drivers attempt moves in The Winston that they'd never think about using in regular point races?
"Nah, you just race hard and you don't worry about what happens."
Do you like the format for The Winston?
"It's pretty unique. It's probably a little more exciting for the fans knowing that it's not only the race to see who wins the segment, but it's the race to see who's going to be in the next segment. There's a race within a race."
Does the format of The Winston remind you of your USAC days?
"Yeah, but at least in USAC you always had a semi. There aren't any semis with The Winston. If you make a mistake, blow a corner and two guys get by you, and you're one spot away from being bumped, you're not going to get a second chance to get into the next race. You've missed it. That's it. You're done."
Christopher Soprano of HBO's "The Sopranos" isn't the only one with an Uncle Tony. Stewart is now an uncle after his sister Natalie gave birth to a healthy, 9 pound, 3 ounce, 21-inch girl. Emma Rose entered this world on Fri., May 9 at 12:58 p.m. EDT.