2005 champion ready to get racing

2005 champion ready to get racing

Tony Stewart may have gotten his Brickyard win and second championship off his 'to-do' list last season, but the reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup Series' champion is already setting his goals for 2006. At the top of that list is a win at the Daytona ...

Tony Stewart may have gotten his Brickyard win and second championship off his 'to-do' list last season, but the reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup Series' champion is already setting his goals for 2006. At the top of that list is a win at the Daytona 500.

Tony Stewart.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
"Our number one goal this year is to go win the Daytona 500," Stewart said. "We've led enough laps the last two years combined to win the race outright. Obviously our run in July there was something that was pretty special to us. And obviously with it being the biggest race on the schedule for the year, that's our number one goal. But once we get through Daytona, whether we win, lose; whatever happens there, you never stop wanting to win races."

And his other goals?

"Obviously I'm going to want to come to Indianapolis and try to win the Brickyard back to back. I love being the guy that does things first. I would love to be the first guy to win the Brickyard back to back, and we want to win another championship," admitted the champion. "Those goals never go away once you accomplish them, they never stop. Even though we had a great year last year, you always want to win more races, win more poles, set new records and continue hot streaks."

Stewart has two seventh-place finishes in the Dayton 500, 2003 and '05, and in 2004 he pushed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to his first season opening victory, Stewart settled for second.

While Stewart's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team and crew chief Greg Zipadelli are in Daytona testing the Home Depot Chevy, Stewart chose to remain home in Indiana and enjoy and extended off-season. Mike McLaughlin is testing the car for Stewart.

"I'll be honest, we haven't had much time off," Stewart commented. "The little bit of time we had off was the week of Christmas, and I got sick, which I didn't know how to look at that, but in hindsight it was actually pretty good," explained Stewart who has been on a whirlwind tour after the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway November 20,2005.

"So I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day by myself with my dog and actually thought that was pretty cool to not have the phone ringing off the hook. I unplugged the phones and had a couple days where I got to spend it by myself and relax and not have to worry about doing anything," he added.

However, that did give the champion time to look ahead into the New Year: "The good thing is, I got looking at the schedule, I've never been so excited to have the season start in my life, because after the Vegas race I think we actually get a week-and-a-half vacation. So I'm excited to get started just to get to my vacation finally," he said.

"So I don't know, it's really not, I guess after a while, I mean we've been doing this so long now that you kind of forget that you have an off season. You just treat it like any other job, and we've still been having fun," Stewart commented. "Even though we've not been racing a lot in the off season, all the stuff we've been doing, even the stuff we've done so far today has been fun.

"I guess when you're having fun doing it, it's not hard to recharge your batteries that way."

Besides resting up to get in gear for the grueling stretch that is the normal Cup schedule, Stewart has also been working on getting back into fighting form so that he is in better physical shape for the road in 2006.

"I've started, and I have to say enjoy doing it," said Stewart of his work out regimen. "Obviously the time I got and the time I was in Fort Wayne and I've been at Louisville, Kentucky, at a major pool tournament the last couple days, and we've not been home to work out. But it's something I'm actually enjoying.

#4 Howard - Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford: Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger, Tony Stewart.
Photo by Jack Durbin.
"We had one of the trainers from Joe Gibbs Racing come to Columbus there and see my equipment and get me set up on a program. So I enjoy doing it. I'm excited about it. I don't feel like I'm going to be Mr. Olympia by February or something, but we're at least making steps in the right direction. So weight is going down instead of up."

And he added in jest: "I hate to tell David Poole (Charlotte Observer head writer) that because he's going to fire me -- we have our eating team down there, I'm afraid I'm going to get fired from that role. But it's part of life, I guess. As you get older, your body changes and no more being able to do what I want and lay on the couch and sleep in until noon anymore, I have to get up like everybody else and work at it right now."

Stewart may be at home relaxing but he is biting at the bit to jump back into action. The champion recently was in Daytona during the Grand American Rolex Series Test Days as the teams were preparing for the season opener on the speedway's infield road course, the Rolex 24. Stewart will be one of the three drivers in the #4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Andy Wallace , Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Butch Leitzinger
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing