Home Depot Racing California preview

TONY STEWART California Cruisin' ATLANTA (April 23, 2001) - There's no mistaking that California Speedway's sister track is Michigan International Speedway. Both facilities were built by Roger Penske, and both have a two-mile D-shaped layout...

California Cruisin'

ATLANTA (April 23, 2001) - There's no mistaking that California Speedway's sister track is Michigan International Speedway. Both facilities were built by Roger Penske, and both have a two-mile D-shaped layout with roughly the same amount of banking.

That's good news for Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Stewart notched his sixth career win at Michigan last spring, and out of the seven race venues where Stewart has won, Michigan is the largest.

That gives Stewart plenty of optimism heading into the NAPA Auto Parts 500, since the California oval is almost a carbon copy of Michigan. If Stewart is able to spin his Michigan success into career win number 10 at California, it will mark Stewart's first win in a 500-mile race.

(California's corners are banked at 14 degrees, while its frontstretch contains 11 degrees of banking and its backstretch contains three degrees. Comparatively, Michigan's corners are banked at 18 degrees, while its frontstretch contains 12 degrees of banking and its backstretch contains five degrees.)

While Fontana may look similar to Las Vegas and Michigan, is it?
"It's a lot like Michigan. Las Vegas is sort of a track all its own. I'm not sure that it has the amount of banking that Michigan has, but it is a flatter track than Michigan. The way you approach the weekend is pretty much the same as far as setups on The Home Depot Pontiac go. You just don't have the banking to help you like you do at Michigan."

Will what you learned from your win at last year's spring Michigan race pay any kind of dividends for your run this Sunday at California?
"I hope so. We haven't tested there this year and with the new tire we're going to almost have to start over with our notes and figure out what we need to do. But we're doing a Goodyear tire test this week at Michigan (Tuesday and Wednesday), so hopefully we'll be able to learn something from that and take it with us to California."

How much of a factor does fuel mileage play at Fontana, and what do you do to conserve fuel?
"Absolutely nothing. I'm not in charge of the Home Depot racing team's fuel mileage department. I'm in the driving department. Really, it's the engine tuners who work really hard during the weekend to try to get us the best fuel mileage as possible for the race."

Drivers have won at Fontana by taking two tires instead of four on their last pit stop. When and how do you make the decision to sacrifice tires for track position, or depending on the circumstances, track position for tires?
"I think it just depends on how your car is working. If your car is driving well, one that keeps you up toward the front all day because it's fast, then just two tires can keep you pretty quick. In that situation, you could make a big gain at the end by just taking on two tires and maintaining your track position. Even some guys who are behind and don't have their car the way they want, by taking on two tires, the track position they gain helps out more than four tires would. But when you get right down to it, I think Fontana is a track where if your car's good, then it doesn't matter whether you take two tires or four."

Some people might say that racing at Fontana is boring. What do you say?
"If a guy gets going and gets his car balanced, then he'll tend to run away. That's just the characteristic of that kind of track. It's fast, it's flat and momentum is so important there, that if a guy is off just a little, he's off a lot. The drivers like it from the standpoint that if you can find a way to get around it a little better, then it'll help them in the long run. You end up racing the race track instead of each other."

Do you spend any extra time in California with acquaintances from your sprint car days?
"I normally see a lot of them during both of our trips to California. That's part of the fun in going out to California and the West Coast - being able to see a lot of the guys that I raced sprint cars and midgets with. It always feels good to go back out there just from that standpoint."

GREG ZIPADELLI, crew chief on the #20 Home Depot Pontiac:
(Prior to heading to California, Zipadelli and crew will be at Michigan Speedway performing a tire test for Goodyear this Tuesday and Wednesday.)

Will your test this week at Michigan help you in any way when you hit the track at California?
"It'll give Tony some seat time and maybe some more confidence in this new tire. Hopefully we'll be able to get a little bit better understanding of what Goodyear is doing and the direction that they're working in. It also gives us an opportunity to take a brand new car and shake it down before taking it to the races."

(The car Zipadelli refers to is not the car that will be campaigned at California. Another new car, recently completed in the team's Huntersville, N.C.-based shop, will be the team's primary car at California.)

Despite having a win at Michigan and two strong runs at California, does having to compete with this new tire make all your previous notes from those venues obsolete?
"Sometime it does, sometimes it doesn't. Goodyear has changed the tire, and we've found that if you're not comfortable with it, then you do kind of have to throw everything away from the past. If you're comfortable with it (the tire), then your notes from previous races do still work." <pre> TONY STEWART'S CALIFORNIA PERFORMANCE PROFILE Year Event Start Finish Status/Laps Laps Led Earnings 2000 California 500 32 10 Running/250 0 $75,950 1999 California 500 7 4 Running/250 1 $68,175


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Roger Penske