TONY STEWART Pondering Pocono ATLANTA (June 12, 2001) - While Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were spent testing at the Virginia International Raceway road course in preparation for the June 24 road course race at Sears Point Raceway...
ATLANTA (June 12, 2001) - While Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were spent testing at the Virginia International Raceway road course in preparation for the June 24 road course race at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., Tony Stewart and The Home Depot Racing Team still had the upcoming Pocono 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway on their minds.
Stewart ran strongly in last year's Pocono 500, leading 38 laps en route to a sixth-place finish. He knows he needs another solid effort at the 2.5-mile triangular track, as last Sunday's 25th place finish at Michigan dropped Stewart from fourth to fifth in points, 205 behind new leader Jeff Gordon.
Pocono has a lot of flat track characteristics along with some characteristics all its own. Is it a place that suits your driving style, considering your success at such flat tracks as Richmond (Va.), Homestead (Fla.) and Phoenix?
"I like it because it has three corners and they're all different. All three have different personalities. If you get the car good in one corner, then sometimes it's bad in one of the others, and yet tolerable somewhere else. The challenge is getting The Home Depot Pontiac to handle through all three corners all day."
Explain a lap around Pocono.
"Turn one is probably the easiest of the three, but you've got the challenge of having to downshift in the middle of the corner. You go down the backstretch and into the tunnel turn and it's basically one lane. It's flat and very line-sensitive. You've got to make sure you're right on your marks every lap when you go through there. Then you've got a short chute into turn three. It's a big, long corner and it too is very line-sensitive. With it being line-sensitive and the fact that we've got a straightaway that's three-quarters of a mile long after that, it's very important that you get through the last corner well. You need to come off the corner quickly so that you're not bogged down when you start down that long straightaway. Each corner has its challenges, and each one tends to present a different set of circumstances with each lap you make."
Pocono is the only oval where you shift. Why is that?
"Because my motor man tells me that's the only way to go fast there. Everybody shifts there."
Coming down that front straightaway, the racing can get pretty wide. When and where do you have to get back in line to make it into that first corner?
"It just kind of funnels itself back into line before we get into (turn) one. Everybody tries to get back on the high side to make their entry into the corner, but sometimes it does get a little tight in there. But most times, you just do what you have to do to get back in line."
What's the most treacherous part of Pocono's layout?
"Probably the tunnel turn. Everybody realizes how fast they're going into (turn) one. And they know that if they wreck they're going to wreck hard. The tunnel turn is a little sneaky. It's a tight fit through there, and you don't really know how fast you're going until something bad happens." <pre> TONY STEWART'S POCONO PERFORMANCE PROFILE
Event Start Finish Status/Laps Laps Led Earnings Pocono 500 9 6 Running/200 38 $73,490 Pennsylvania 500 1 26 Running/199 0 $56,490
Year 1999 Event Start Finish Status/Laps Laps Led Earnings Pocono 500 12 6 Running/200 1 $53,255 Pennsylvania 500 12 4 Running/200 0 $70,970