TONY STEWART Second Year, Second Shootout DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 9, 2001) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
Second Year, Second Shootout
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 9, 2001) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, earned entry into this year's Budweiser Shootout by capturing his first pole of 2000 and the third pole of his career at the 2.5-mile Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in July. Stewart turned in another pole-winning performance two months later at the track that is home to his first career pole - the .526-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Sunday's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway will mark Stewart's second start in the pre-season kickoff to the annual Winston Cup schedule.
What's your attitude heading into the Shootout?
"The entire Home Depot team is heading in there with a go-for-broke attitude. There aren't any points involved. It's just money, a trophy and a lot of prestige. It gives you a little more freedom to go out and try things by using it as a practice session for the (Daytona) 500, because there's really nothing to lose. You try things that maybe you wouldn't feel very comfortable with trying in the 500. If you find things that do work, you use 'em for the 500. If what you try doesn't work, you know what not to do for the 500. We're just going for broke and seeing what we can learn."
Are you more aggressive in the Shootout because there aren't any points to be won or lost?
"I think so. That and it's a lot shorter race. You're not going for 500 miles. It's just a long sprint, really. You've got a short amount of time to get your work done. So, you kind of throw caution to the wind. If you think you can go, well then, you better go."
The distance of the Shootout has changed from 25 laps to 70 laps. Will that change your strategy?
"It won't change our strategy, but it will give us more time to learn about what The Home Depot Pontiac will do on a long race run while in traffic. Adding those 45 laps makes the Shootout just like a typical race run, and we should be able to learn from that. It's real world type racing. So, I'm really happy about the change, and I think a lot of the other guys are too. I think the drivers feel like it's a fun race to run, just from the standpoint that you're all just racing for a paycheck. You're not racing for points, and it kind of takes us back to our roots to a certain degree. It's definitely a great way to kick off the season for everybody."
Obviously, you have a good drafting partner in your Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte. But is there anyone else that you find you work well with in the draft?
"Most of the guys that you run up front with every week. As they get more comfortable seeing my orange and white Home Depot Pontiac, and I get more comfortable running with them, we seem to run a lot closer at the superspeedways. I don't get hung out as much because they're gaining confidence in me. A lot of it will depend on what happens during the week of practice. There may be a guy that you're not used to running with, but your car and his car together make a pretty good package. So, you'll be out there searching for partners that'll make your car run better. It'll be a trial and error process for a whole week trying to find which guys you run well with and which ones you don't."
- Mike Arning