CHARLOTTE, N.C., (May 30, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (May 30, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, led a total of 224 laps last year at Dover (Del.) Downs International Speedway. In the spring event, he led 127 laps and wound up fourth. In the fall race, he led 97 laps and ended up second. Impressive statistics considering Stewart had only a handful of NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division starts at the concrete clad one-mile oval.
Equally impressive are the statistics of the car Stewart will be piloting in Dover's MBNA Platinum 400. Chassis #28 has five starts under its belt, all coming at concrete tracks - Dover and Bristol (Tenn.). In those races, the Laughlin-built chassis has an average finish of 14th and has led a total of 504 laps - 27 percent of all the laps it has competed in.
You finished no worse than fourth in the two races held last year at Dover. Was that another case of going to a race track where you felt comfortable right away?
"Yeah, I took to that place pretty quickly. I just felt comfortable there. Plus, Joe Gibbs Racing has always had a good setup for The Home Depot Pontiac at that track. It's one of those tracks that suits my driving style, and we always seem to be able to put together a good run there."
Before you raced at Dover in a Cup car, you raced there in a Busch car and in an Indy Racing League (IRL) entry. How did those experiences help you for when you first visited Dover last year?
"The Busch Series definitely helped. We had good race cars in the Busch Series. It was definitely a case of learning a lot with a good Busch car before going there with a good Cup car. We had one of our best runs in the Busch Series at Dover. The IRL is a totally different animal. So, I couldn't apply much, if anything, from that."
Does Dover have some characteristics from other tracks that you've raced on in your career?
"Not really. Dover's pretty unique. First of all, it's the only one-mile track that we go to that's concrete. Then it has such big corners. You're in the corner there for a long, long time. You really don't get much of a chance to take a break and relax."
Does Dover feel like a bigger version of Bristol Motor Speedway?
"To a certain degree, yeah, it is like Bristol. Those tracks share a lot of the same characteristics. It seems like the guys who run well at Bristol run well at Dover."
Does Dover put the same amount of physical strain on you that Bristol does?
"Definitely. The biggest thing is the fact that you're in the corners for so long and you run so fast there. It just keeps putting a lot of load on your body all day long. That's why Dover is such a physically demanding race."
Explain a lap around Dover.
"What you do for qualifying is totally different from what you do in the race. Basically, a lot of the cars qualify down on the bottom of the track, but by the time you're about 40 or 50 laps into the race, there are cars all the way from the bottom of the race track to right up against the outside wall. That's a big difference in between. Basically, everybody just searches around on the race track looking for a spot that makes their car happy. So obviously, we're going to try and make The Home Depot Pontiac as happy as possible."