Atlanta: Tony Stewart preview

Tony Stewart Aimed Toward Atlanta ATLANTA (March 5, 2002) - If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Such is the mantra for The Home Depot Racing Team as they get set to make their seventh career start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It...

Tony Stewart
Aimed Toward Atlanta

ATLANTA (March 5, 2002) - If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Such is the mantra for The Home Depot Racing Team as they get set to make their seventh career start at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It wasn't until the team's sixth visit to the 1.54-mile oval that driver Tony Stewart was finally able to log a top-10. Before that, bad luck in the form of accidents or mechanical gremlins foiled the runs made by Stewart and Co. before race's end. But with that strong top-10 finish finally under their belts, the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Team plan continued improvement at Atlanta.

You've always been able to run well at Atlanta, but finishing well has been another matter. With your first top-10 at Atlanta being scored at last year's fall race, do you feel that you and the team have turned a corner when it comes to your performance at Atlanta?

"During my rookie year, Atlanta was only my fourth Winston Cup race. We didn't have a lot of time in a Cup car at that time, and an 11th place finish was a good run for The Home Depot team. We had a top-five car when we came back in the fall, but we had a pit stop late in the race that cost us. I thought that we would be better in 2000 just from the standpoint that we had more experience. We ran better, but we didn't finish better. We ended up wrecked in both of those races. Then last year at the spring race, the motor let go there at the end and we wound up 27th. We've always been confident that we could run well at Atlanta, because we've been able to do that in all of our starts there. It just never seemed to come together at the end of the race, until the November race last year when we finished ninth and led some laps too. We basically just kept the car in one piece and made it to the finish. As far as turning a corner, well, I think we've been there all along. It seemed that luck, or a lack of it, got the better of us, at least for the most part. Hopefully that's behind us now."

Your teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, Bobby Labonte, has enjoyed a lot of success at Atlanta Motor Speedway. How has the success of the #18 team helped you at Atlanta?

"You look at Bobby's record there and not only do they qualify well, but they race well. It makes the transition for me a lot easier because they have great notes for Atlanta. I know that when I go out in my Home Depot Pontiac, the setup is going to be fairly close to Bobby's to begin with."

Speeds at Atlanta are in the mid-190 mph range. Is that too fast, and is there any margin for error?

"It's a pretty fast race track. I think as time goes on and the track surface ages, the speeds will probably slow down some. Right now it's a pretty fast race track, and when you do hit the wall you hit it pretty hard. There's not much room for error simply because of how fast the track is. The faster you go the more race track you need to get your car back under control."

What's the trickiest part to making a quick lap at Atlanta?

"It's got its set of bumps. You need to make sure your car gets over the bumps but still turns well. Normally, if you turn after you hit the bumps, you're tight. If you turn before you hit the bumps, you're loose. Just finding that common balance - getting the car over the bumps but having it turn at the same time - that's what you're shooting for."

-hdr/jgr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing