TONY STEWART All-Star Test Session ATLANTA (May 17, 2005) - When Major League Baseball plays its All-Star game July 12 at Detroit's Comerica Park, players won't be there to test out the field or develop a new bat that always hits home runs.
All-Star Test Session
ATLANTA (May 17, 2005) - When Major League Baseball plays its All-Star game July 12 at Detroit's Comerica Park, players won't be there to test out the field or develop a new bat that always hits home runs. They'll be there to put on a show, plain and simple.
But the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, NASCAR's version of an All-Star game, does all that and more. Fans will certainly be treated to a show at the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval, as top NASCAR drivers compete for a $1 million payout in a race with no point ramifications.
But overshadowed by the glitz of the event is a high-profile test session. Drivers and teams can use the track time garnered from participating in Saturday night's All-Star Challenge and put it toward next weekend's Coca-Cola 600 - a point-paying race that is also at Charlotte.
For Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing, the All-Star Challenge represents the perfect test session. Unlike most test sessions that are lonely and monotonous, there's actual competition in the All-Star Challenge. And the incentive of a nice trophy augmented by an equally nice paycheck should not be overlooked.
And in taking full advantage of all the track time the All-Star race weekend offers, Stewart will also compete in the undercard NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race for Morgan-Dollar Motorsports. It's all in an effort to glean the most information from what is essentially a weekend's worth of free testing.
How much will running the Truck Series race on Friday night help you for the All-Star race on Saturday night?
"I'm really anxious to see the improvements to the track surface. They've grinded the track and taken out a lot of the bumps. And from what other drivers tell me, the track's pretty smooth. But I haven't tested the new surface, so my time in the truck will be pretty valuable. I'll get a whole day of practice and qualifying with the truck before I get over to the Cup side with The Home Depot Chevrolet. Running the truck certainly won't hurt, that's for sure.
"Morgan-Dollar is a really good team. I finished third in my only race with them last year at Richmond (Va.), and Bobby (Labonte) won with them earlier this year at Martinsville (Va.). They've got really good equipment, which means I'll have more time to learn the race track."
Can the All-Star Challenge 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 All-Star race is relatively true to how your car is going to drive in the 600. It's a really good test because it's really the only time we have to run at night in race conditions."
Much was made about the new spoiler and tire combination coming into this season, particularly how they would affect a car's handling at intermediate tracks such as Charlotte. Now that you're fairly deep into the season and have competed on a variety of different race tracks, have you noticed much difference in how your car handles this year as opposed to last year?
"I really haven't noticed any difference, to be honest. With the exception of the short tracks, we've been a little bit off with our cars this year, so I'm not sure I'm the right guy to answer that question. I haven't noticed any drastic differences. It seems like it's just business as usual. It just seems like with every change in the rules, the teams takes the information they get from the wind tunnel to calculate how much downforce they've lost. Then they figure out how to adjust the body to get the balance back in the car to gain some of that downforce back. But like I said, I really haven't noticed a lot of difference."
Some drivers have said that the cars are harder to drive this year. Is that the case?
"These cars are always hard to drive. If they were easy to drive, you and everybody could do it. When you're in the car, it stills feels loose or tight. Sometimes you're in a four-wheel drift and you have to make adjustments based on that. That aspect of driving these cars really hasn't changed. It doesn't seem to me to have been a huge transition."