TONY STEWART Continued Quality in UAW-GM Quality 500 CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Oct. 2, 2000) - While the temperature may be cooling off, Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
Continued Quality in UAW-GM Quality 500
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Oct. 2, 2000) - While the temperature may be cooling off, Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, is heating up.
Since winning his first race of the season at Dover (Del.) in June, Stewart has scored four more wins, two poles, and has finished outside of the top-10 just three times in 16 starts. His average finish in those 16 starts is ninth.
With his win last Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) and the week before at Dover, it marked the third time in Stewart's career that he has won back-to-back races. In fact, in his last 38 starts, Stewart has won eight races (21 percent). No other driver has a better winning percentage in the same amount of starts. The only drivers who come close are Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace, who with five wins each in the last 38 races, share a 13 percent win rate.
Impressive numbers that Stewart plans to add to when he and his Home Depot Racing Team roll into Charlotte for the on-track activities surrounding the UAW-GM Quality 500.
But racing around Charlotte's 1.5-mile oval isn't the only thing that Stewart has going on this week. With the World of Outlaws (WoO) visiting The Dirt Track just across street, Stewart will be spending whatever free time he has working on the Eagle chassis that Danny Lasoski regularly pilots on the WoO circuit. Lasoski, a 10-race winner so far this season, will drive under the Tony Stewart Racing banner next year for Stewart's start-up WoO team.
How different is Charlotte when you race there in October compared to when you raced there in May?
"The biggest difference last year was that Goodyear brought a new generation tire to Charlotte. I struggled to get comfortable on the tire, but it was a better tire for everybody. It just changed our setup in the way I drive. I run kind of a unique line there that some of the other drivers don't run. It effected me a lot more than it effected a lot of the other cars. But we ran the same tire in the spring and got a little better with it. We're really looking forward to going back so that we can keep working with that tire a little more. Hopefully, the gains we made from the fall of last year to the spring of this year will continue when we head there this week, and we'll get back up toward the front at Charlotte like this Home Depot team needs to be."
You say you run a unique line around Charlotte. Explain the line you run.
"It's the same line that I run in qualifying. As the tires get older a lot of drivers will move up off the bottom of the track through turns three and four. I'm able to stay right on the bottom with the setup that we run. It's hard to do that because the race track is a lot rougher on the bottom of three and four. So, it's a unique challenge for us to find a balance as to what we need to do to the race car to make it compatible with the tire."
Is turn four as treacherous as everyone claims? How so?
"With the line I run I have a lot of room coming off turn four since I run on the bottom. But when a lot of guys over the course of the race move up to the top of the race track, then it does become treacherous because it gets really tight coming off of turn four. That and the banking falls off real hard, too. It makes for a unique challenge. Turns one and two are pretty muchâ€¦once you get in there you can get right back on the gas and stay in it. Turns three and four are a different story. With the years of the sun beating down on that part of the track, Mother Nature hasn't been kind to that end of the race track. So, it's bumpier and the cars will move around a little more. So, that makes it a little harder to get through."
At this point in the season, how much of a luxury is it to have a race so close to home?
"It's nice to be able to go home on a race weekend and sleep in your own bed. I know that doesn't sound like a very big deal, but when you travel as much as we do, any time that you can spend at home is important, especially at this time of year. There are a lot of drivers and crew members who are starting to get burned out, and a lot of families who are starting to get burned out, too. So, it's nice to be able to spend a race weekend in your hometown where you can go home and see your friends and family at the end of the day and sit back in your own house and just relax."
With the World of Outlaws running just across the street and a bunch of your friends competing in that series, what kinds of things will you be doing at The Dirt Track?
"I'll be what you call a grunt. That's the lowest paid crew member on the team. I don't get paid to go over and work, but I will be helping my friend, Danny Lasoski, over there each night. It's just something I enjoy. With our situation of building a team for Danny next year and myself being a car owner, it's really good for me to be seen over there and be a part of it. It also gives me a good opportunity to see what kind of technology there is that I need to concentrate on and what kind of equipment I need to acquire through the winter. We already have a bunch of equipment and we have a couple of really good sponsors already lined up. It's just a matter of me trying to get a couple of more sponsors and just staying on top of the series and making sure that I'm giving Danny the best equipment that I can give him next year."
How is your World of Outlaws team coming?
"Realistically, if we could get a couple of associate sponsors right now - they wouldn't even have to be big associate sponsors, one decent associate sponsor would have us where we need to be. We're looking to find about another $200,000. If we can do that, then we're done. I'm really confident that if we can get that last $200,000, we'll be able to give Danny the best of equipment for next year and give him a race car each night that's capable of putting him into a position where he can run for the point championship."
You've been called a young Roger Penske - a successful racer who owns successful race teams. What do you think of that?
"I've heard that comparison before. The way I look at it, you can't take all of your money with you when you die anyway. Trust me, I have a lot of bills to pay each week, but I just really enjoy auto racing. I haven't forgotten where I came from. I haven't forgotten the fans that have supported me from where I came from. This is a great opportunity for me to help a guy that's in the same type of situation that I was in years ago before I got my lucky break to the IRL (Indy Racing League) and Winston Cup. It's nice for me to be able to take some of what I've made in Winston Cup and be able to put it in a program to help another driver that I really admire and that I'm really close to by way of our friendship. It gives me a lot of gratification. I enjoy going racing. Even though I'm not in the driver's seat each night, I really enjoy being a part of that series with Danny and I'm looking forward to being even more involved next year."
Will there be any driving for you over at The Dirt Track?
"Maybe if we rent the track at some point in time and have a test day or something. I don't think you'll see me in any competition laps. I've driven a winged sprint car a couple of times in the last year under aliases so Joe (Gibbs) wouldn't find out. But I've pretty much decided that winged sprint cars are not my bag of tricks. I do a lot better without the wings on top. So, I'll leave it to the trained professionals. I'll just be the guy who writes the checks and scrapes the mud off the car each night."