STEWART KIRBY (No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Kirby is a 21-year-old driver from Bowling Green, Ky. He's 5'8" and weighs 123 pounds. The Protection One 400 will be his third Winston Cup start and his first in the BAM Racing Dodge ...
STEWART KIRBY (No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Kirby is a 21-year-old driver from Bowling Green, Ky. He's 5'8" and weighs 123 pounds. The Protection One 400 will be his third Winston Cup start and his first in the BAM Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T.
"I started racing go-karts in Kentucky and moved up like a lot of the Winston Cup drivers do. I moved up in the World Karting Association where we led the national points. I had a lot of national wins and a lot of success in that. When I turned 16 I was able to move up in the Late Model Series at Highland Rim where the likes of Mike Alexander, Casey Atwood, the Waltrips and Greens and Jeremy Mayfield ran. I had some success there. We won four races, six poles and had the track record. Then we went to Nashville Speedway. We led the points there last year when I was running some ARCA. I had to quit there because I didn't have the funds to do it. I was able to go ARCA racing with Bob Schact. We ran top five in every races, won poles, got the track record at Pocono by 2.5 mph. He took me to a Winston Cup race after six races in ARCA and we ran our first Winston Cup race last year at Charlotte. We qualified 21st and was running 28th or 29th and got taken out in a wreck. We ran another Cup race (Chicago) this year and I ran some Busch for Jimmy Spencer. I'm just trying to find that right deal. I'd like to thank these guys for giving me a chance to come here and showcase my talents and hopefully make their cars run better. I was really disappointed yesterday in qualifying. We missed the setup. We're a little off in practice, but we're going in the right direction. We just went the wrong way in qualifying. I'm proud of these guys. They're working hard. They're trying to get used to me, and I'm trying to get used to them. Hopefully we'll get that chemistry and be able to run some more races. This is a one-race deal right now. They took me to Kentucky to test and decided to bring me here. I'm excited, but I'm just going to try to do the best I can and learn their communication and try to work together. We got the car a lot more comfortable getting in the corner, and it's not as loose as it was yesterday. Now we're going to work on getting better from the center off and try to get it freed up where we can stay consistent.
"The way I look at it, everybody is the same size once they get in a race car. You've just got to make the cars turn through the center better and keep 'em on the bottom and stay consistent throughout the day and be there at the end. We're all the same out there. We've just got to get the cars turning the best, and we're working hard at that. I've been able to talk to Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman both. I think the world of both of them. They're excellent race car drivers and real smart race car drivers. Hopefully I'll get to the level they're at. They've got real good, solid rides. They're running faster than most of the veterans out there. It just shows that if you can get the right stuff and the communication is there like they have, you can have success in the Cup series. Jeff Gordon was my favorite driver coming up. I respect him on and off the race track. When he was getting into Winston Cup I was just starting in go-karts. Watching him and Jeremy Mayfield, actually, I respect all these drivers out here because they're the best race car drivers in the world. I'm just thrilled to be here and be able to race with these guys and try to gain their respect on and off the track. Hopefully they'll want to race with me in the future.
"In the other two Cup races, we qualified 21st and 26th. We haven't had much success in the race. Maybe it'll swap around here and we'll start in the back, get a good feel for the car and try to finish the race and get all 400 miles under my belt. I love the short tracks, too, but I really never got to run a short track in an ARCA, Busch or Cup car, so I'm looking forward to getting the success on the short tracks and getting some experience on those. I really enjoy running on Saturday nights under the lights at Nashville.
"I wish I could say I could win the race. I want to say that, but realistically, my goal is to finish. If the car is there, I'll run for the win. There's no doubt about that, but I'm just going to get out there and learn each other through the race. You've got to run 50 or 60 laps under the green, so you've got to really make the right calls. If you don't, you can really lose a lot of time. We're going to start building up our notebook and learn each other.
"Scott Eggleston (crew chief) is a real good guy to work with. I like him a lot. I haven't had that kind of crew chief who's had that much experience with Winston Cup drivers. He brings a lot to the table, and I've really enjoyed working with him. He's helping me out a lot. I'm learning about how much you've got to be able to change. These cars are so different with aero and shocks and stuff like that. He'll find that right feel for me.
"We've got Ernie Elliott motors, and they're real good motors. They run real strong down the straightaways. I was out there with a couple of guys and were able to hang with them down the straightaways. We're just losing some time in the corners. Once we get it freed up through the center and off, I think we'll be all right.
"Knowledge wise, I'm not going to say I'm equal to all these Winston Cup guys. I'm a rookie and this whole team is still learning. We just don't have those notebooks like they do and the technology they have behind them throughout the years. We're learning as we go. They're teaching me a lot and we're both learning together, the team and I. Once we get that and get a good notebook, I think we'll be all right. The guys at Childress' have been real helpful, Robby Gordon, Jeff Green and Kevin Harvick. I've talked to them a lot. All the guys are super nice. They know what it's like to be a rookie and they know what it's like coming up through the ranks. Everybody I've talked to has really helped me out.
"If I can prove myself out here... It's just going to take that experience, but hopefully I'll be here racing and running up front for the next 10 years. I'm looking forward to that. We have fun, but I'm here as serious as I can be to race. I'm just frustrated about yesterday a little bit. We've got Happy Hour and 400 laps to make the car better. Maybe I'll get out there and have a little fun and finish every lap. I need to get seat time. That's the biggest thing.
"The Dodge is a pretty good car. Basically, I've driven everything except Pontiac. I drove a Ford in Cup and Chevrolet in Busch. The cars are different aero wise, but you've got to get them all to turn in the center. That's what we're working on now."
SCOTT EGGLESTON (Crew Chief No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Stuart is pretty sharp. He's a real good guy. I'm not sure he knows what he really needs yet in a Cup car. He's thinking one way and I'm thinking another way. I think he's going to be real good. If we get a little time working together I think we can be real good. He's getting used to the Cup cars. He's trying to drive 'em like a Busch car, and you can't driver them exactly the same. He's improved from yesterday.
"I started with this team just before Indy. It's been different because we have a different driver just about every week, but it hasn't been too bad. Every driver brings a little something different, so I learn from the different drivers. I think we're getting our program together. We're behind in a lot of areas. We're trying to get consistent and when we get that, we'll go fast.
"This is my first time working with Dodge, and it's definitely a better car than what I've been working on. I don't know enough about 'em to make 'em better yet, but I'm learning. This is a one-race deal with Stuart, but if he does good there might be another one. I like him a lot, and I think if we had two or three races together we could really do something. He's pretty sharp. He knows what he wants. He's just trying to learn how to drive these cars. I think we'll just try to get a middle of the pack finish and give us something to build on.
"I think he's going to be good. I hope I can work with him long enough to be there with him when he gets good. He just needs some time. I think he'd be comfortable in the car in three or four races. He's right there. He's right on the verge of being good. I didn't know a whole lot about him. If we can find something that he likes and makes him comfortable, you'll probably see it this weekend. We've got good motors and good cars. He's young and the team is young.
"It won't be easy. No tracks are easy. It's a good place to race, but if it was easy, I'd be driving."