Tony Stewart: Forget the Past, Winston Cup Rookie Seeks Turnaround in Return to Homestead HOMESTEAD, Fla. (June 30, 1999) â€“ Tony Stewart didnâ€™t make any headlines in his only two races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, finishing deep in the pack...
Tony Stewart: Forget the Past, Winston Cup Rookie Seeks Turnaround in Return to Homestead
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (June 30, 1999) – Tony Stewart didn’t make any headlines in his only two races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, finishing deep in the pack in the past two NASCAR Busch Series finales. But the NASCAR Winston Cup Series rookie hopes to turn that around when he returns to the 1.5-mile oval Nov. 14 for the inaugural Pennzoil 400.
"I have run in Miami twice in the NASCAR Busch Series but didn't have the best of luck," admitted the driver of the Joe Gibbs-owned Home Depot Pontiac. "We are hoping to turn that around in the NASCAR Winston Cup car this fall."
Less than halfway through the current season, NASCAR Winston Cup competitors are ignoring the yellow stripe on Stewart’s back bumper signifying his rookie status. Instead, he’s already earned the respect befitting a championship contender. The champion open-wheel driver is sixth in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings after 16 races, just behind defending champ Jeff Gordon and 383 shy of points leader Dale Jarrett. After a slow start, Stewart has finished in the top 10 eight of the past 12 events, including fourth place showings at California, Charlotte and Dover.
Stewart made United States Auto Club history in 1995 when he became the first driver to win the Triple Crown, capturing championships in Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown divisions. He progressed to the Indy Racing League, and was Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 1996 and IRL champion in 1997. Stewart won two IRL races last year, placing third in the championship.
Despite emerging as a superstar in Indy Car racing, Stewart turned his attention to the heavier, closed-fendered NASCAR Busch Series stock cars. He ran five races in 1997, including a 31st place finish in the Jiffy Lube Miami 300. Last year he finished 21st in the NASCAR Busch Series standings, including a 39th place showing – after qualifying 40th – in the Miami finale. Gibbs felt confident that the young star was ready for NASCAR’s premier division, and Stewart is on the verge of winning his first NASCAR Winston Cup race. But he isn’t making any predictions.
"Homestead-Miami Speedway is an interesting track – it’s fast! But returning to Homestead will be a new experience for us as a team," Stewart said. "Without the ability to test there, I don't know what to tell you in terms of how we will do in the Winston Cup car."
The 28-year-old Indiana native has reasons to feel optimistic.
"I have developed a level of being comfortable in the Cup car that I wasn't quite able to acquire in the Busch car. We have been able to adapt to new tracks very quickly.
"The guys on this team are totally focused on our goals. We aim to qualify in the first round, race every lap, improve our finishes, and win the NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year title. We approach every race in that frame of mind, and the Miami race will be no different."
Reserved grandstand seats are now on sale for the Pennzoil 400. For tickets, call (305) 230-7223. For additional information, visit the official Homestead-Miami Speedway web site at www.racemiami.com.
Tony Stewart on South Florida
"We hope to do a little deep sea fishing while we are down there. We did some fishing last year after the Jiffy Lube Miami 300 and we really had a blast. It is a great chance for me and my guys to have some fun away from the track!"
[ This is the fifth in a series of releases featuring the thoughts of key NASCAR Winston Cup Series competitors in anticipation of the inaugural Pennzoil 400, Nov. 11-14 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.]