Daytona II: Tony Stewart preview

Tony Stewart Road Trip Rolls Into Daytona ATLANTA (June 30, 2003) - The four NASCAR Winston Cup Series races run during the month of June allowed Tony Stewart to gain nine positions in the championship point standings. The driver of the ...

Tony Stewart
Road Trip Rolls Into Daytona

ATLANTA (June 30, 2003) - The four NASCAR Winston Cup Series races run during the month of June allowed Tony Stewart to gain nine positions in the championship point standings. The driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet comes into the Pepsi 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway just 43 points out of the top-10, an area Stewart hasn't visited since Martinsville (Va.) in mid-April when he was seventh in points.

A fourth-place finish at Dover (Del.), followed by a win at Pocono (Pa.), an eighth-place run at Brooklyn (Mich.) and a respectable 12th place effort at the road course in Sonoma (Calif.) has allowed the reigning Winston Cup champion to reassert his presence to those drivers currently in the top-10.

In four full seasons on the Winston Cup tour, Stewart and his #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Team have never finished lower than sixth in the season-ending point standings. Their aim in 2003 is no different, despite the roller-coaster season endured thus far. With 19 races still remaining in the marathon-like Winston Cup schedule, there is still plenty of time for the orange and black attack to do more than just crack the top-10.

Their next opportunity comes under the lights at Daytona, where Stewart will sport a stars and stripes paint scheme during the Independence Day weekend - a tribute to Home Depot's sponsorship of the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, a cross-country journey that promotes civic participation by offering Americans an up-close view of one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence.

And while carrying the colors of the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, Stewart plans to continue his June road trip right into July, where career win number 17 and the points that come with it await.

You were able to gain nine positions in the point standings during the month of June. Are you thinking about points?

"Not at all.  I'm not even looking at the points.  As a matter of fact, I
stopped doing that a while ago.  We just need to go out and race hard and
win races - plain and simple.  You do that and the points take care of
themselves.  I said that last year when I was running for a championship
and I'm saying it now.  That's just the way you have to look at it."

Is a fast car all you need to be successful in restrictor plate races?

"You have to have a fast car. But with that fast car, you've got to have a good team that gets you in and out of the pits fast, and you've got to have a driver who knows what he's doing. Get all that together, along with a little bit of luck, and you can have a good day."

What's the difference between racing at Daytona and Talladega?

"You can run two and three-wide all day at Daytona. At Talladega you can run three-wide all day easily, and sometimes four-wide. Essentially, Talladega just has an extra lane compared to Daytona, because its track is a little easier to get a hold of mechanically. Handling isn't near as big of an issue as it is at Daytona. Talladega is just about speed, and finding more of it. It's bigger, so its corners are a little bit bigger, which is why handling doesn't seem to be quite as much of an issue."

You've seemed to work with Dale Earnhardt Jr., a lot during past restrictor plate races. Has he become an unofficial teammate for you at Daytona and Talladega?

"We both know that we run really well together. I guess to a certain degree we are unofficial teammates. My teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing - Bobby Labonte - when we're able to run together we typically run well. I think Bobby's philosophy on running together is different than Junior's and mine. Basically, you just find guys you're comfortable running with, and I'm very comfortable running with Bobby whenever I can. But it seems like Junior and I somehow always find each other and get with each other and have the confidence in one another to know that whoever's leading, that the guy behind him knows that if the guy in front makes a move, the guy in second is going to go with him. That's the confidence Junior and I have together. When you have the pairing that Junior and I have, we trust each other and it gives us a level of confidence that not too many drivers have found with other drivers. He's real comfortable with me and I'm real comfortable with him. Our view is that if we get together, then we can go by everybody. As long as we end up getting grouped together, we always get back to the front - no matter what."

Have the common body templates allowed for more passing at restrictor plate venues?

"No, but I think the good thing is that it's made everybody finally shut up about body styles being uneven. They're all the same now, and whoever wins the race will have won because their team did a better job and their driver did a better job then the next group of guys."

Drivers at Daytona will complain of an "aero push" while racing in traffic. What exactly is an aero push?

"You have two types of balance on your race car. You have mechanical balance and aero balance. Your mechanical balance is comprised of springs, shocks, sway bars and suspension pieces. Your aero balance relates to the total aerodynamics of the car - how the air flows over the top of the race car and how it creates downforce in different areas. If you're running with a car right in front of you, you don't have the air hitting the front of your car as you would if you were running in clean air, where there's no one in front of you. When someone is in front of you and you're not getting that air pushing down on the front of the nose, the car isn't getting the downforce it needs to stick to the race track. That creates an understeer condition, which makes the car push out toward the wall. That's what's happening when you hear drivers complain of an aero push."

What's your biggest complaint about restrictor plate racing?

"You have to block, and it seems to be a necessary evil now with the way the rules are and the way the cars drive. The cars drive so well that your only saving grace to keep your position is to turn down and block somebody. I'd like to see NASCAR do something about it because I hate having to do it. But I do it because everybody else does it."

Patience is an obvious virtue on the short tracks, but how important is it at a restrictor plate track?

"It's the gospel, basically. There are a lot of times when you think you can pull out and pass, but if you do, once you get there you realize that you can't pass. It makes it real critical that you take your time and that you don't get caught up in trying to make a move too fast. Just stay in line, and sometimes you'll have more patience than 20 other guys."

You've performed drafting in Winston Cup and in the Indy Racing League (IRL). Are the drafting principles that you apply in both series the same or are they different?

"It's a lot more technical with the Cup cars because of how close you can run with each other. With the IRL cars, you would just line up straight behind a guy, get a run on him and go by. With the Cup cars it's a lot harder because you have to be real precise with your movements, and you always have to be aware that there are other cars around you all the time. It's not just one car versus another. It's one car versus 42 cars out there all in a big group. With that many cars around you, it just makes it that much harder."

You'll be running a special stars and stripes paint scheme during the Pepsi 400 to promote Home Depot's sponsorship of the Declaration of Independence Road Trip. The Declaration of Independence Road Trip takes a rare, original copy of the Declaration of Independence to cities and towns across the United States. Talk about that.

"This is a pretty appropriate paint scheme for the race we're running and for all that's going on in our world today. The fact that people can actually see an authentic copy of the Declaration of Independence is impressive. It's the document that our country is based upon. It's what allows us to do what we do today. To be able to get so close to that kind of history is a treat that very few people in this world will ever get to enjoy."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing