Tony Stewart Best of both worlds in Vegas. ATLANTA (Feb. 25, 2003) - In the span of one evening, the swath of asphalt that comprises the Las Vegas Strip allows guests to visit such far off places as Rome, Rio, Egypt, Hollywood, New York, Monte...
Best of both worlds in Vegas.
ATLANTA (Feb. 25, 2003) - In the span of one evening, the swath of asphalt that comprises the Las Vegas Strip allows guests to visit such far off places as Rome, Rio, Egypt, Hollywood, New York, Monte Carlo, Italy, France and pretty much everything in between.
For Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet Monte Carlo, those destinations are nice, but the two worlds he's most interested in are the ones located north of the city off Interstate 15 - the 1.5-mile paved oval and The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The paved oval is where Stewart will go to work behind the wheel of his Home Depot Chevrolet, as round three of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series gets underway this Sunday with the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. The Dirt Track is where Stewart will go to play, as his World of Outlaws team with driver Danny Lasoski competes Friday and Saturday night, fresh off their Feb. 22 win at Perris Auto Speedway in Lake Perris, Calif.
You were able to test at Las Vegas in late January. How did it go and had the track changed much since you were there for last year's Winston Cup race?
"I was happy about it. I thought we had a good test there. There weren't any major surprises, but because we had a new car, there was a question mark as to how the new Monte Carlo was going to drive. The good thing was that there wasn't any big, drastic change with the new car. It was really just business as usual. As far as the track went, it felt like it had lost a little bit of grip, but I don't think the track has changed too much."
Some drivers have suggested that Goodyear make a softer tire while NASCAR reduce the amount of downforce on all makes of race cars, thereby allowing driver input to supersede a car's aerodynamics. How do you feel about that?
"I think it's a great idea. That way, you'd have to budget your tires. You couldn't go out there and just run flat out the whole time. With that would come a lot more passing by drivers. Guys that would get in too big of a hurry would go out and abuse their tires early in a run, and guys that were patient would pass them at the end of a run. When it was like that a few years ago, you saw a lot more passing and the racing just seemed to be better all around. Take some downforce away from us, but give us some softer tires. That's the combination that has to happen for that to work. You can't keep adding downforce to these cars and then at the same time ask Goodyear to go out and make a softer tire. That's not fair to Goodyear. The only way for Goodyear to give us a softer tire is to take downforce away, and I'm all for it."
Will Las Vegas be the first indication of how NASCAR's new "aerodynamically matched" race cars perform against one another on the track?
"Las Vegas will be the first true test of the new aero package. None of us know exactly what we're going to see, but at the same time, Las Vegas will be a really good test of what this new aero package is all about. Aerodynamics have always been important at Las Vegas, so with the new rules, we'll see what affect they really have."
How much time will you be spending with your World of Outlaws team while in Las Vegas?
"I'll be able to do what I need to do with The Home Depot Chevrolet and still have plenty of time to go over to The Dirt Track and watch Danny and the team. I'll be busy as a car owner working with the team, but that's something I look forward to. It's why I'm involved with the World of Outlaws."
What is the mindset of your World of Outlaws team as they open their season?
"We've got a big change this year in switching to Mopar power. By having a new motor combination, we hope that by the time we get to Vegas we'll have everything in order and we'll be where we want to be - just trying to find an edge that will take us to that next level. Mopar has stepped up and helped us with that project by giving us the tools to hopefully create more power than we've ever had before with our Outlaw team."
Tony Stewart - Best of Both Worlds in Vegas Page Two
Your World of Outlaws team is going into their third year, having won the championship their first season and having finished second in points last season. Do they still look to you for leadership, or are they self-sufficient?
"They're self-sufficient. Obviously, while I'm on the road racing The Home Depot Chevrolet they're racing the Outlaw car. They can run that whole team without me. My strength comes at the end of the year, making sure that we have everything that we need for the next season, making sure that our sponsors are taken care of, and making sure that everyone involved with our organization is happy."
As a car owner, how would you view the health of the World of Outlaws circuit?
"I think Ted Johnson (World of Outlaws president) and his staff do a great job. They have the premier dirt open-wheel series in the country. I remember as a kid being able to go to Bloomington, Ind., and for weeks before the series even arrived, there was a buzz because the Outlaws were coming to town, and folks wanted to see if the local guys could run with the Outlaws. That was always one of the highlights of the year for me. Just being able to be a part of it now is a neat feeling, knowing that as a child I went and watched that series with such admiration. Now I'm able to compete in that series as a car owner. I'm just proud of what that series has done over the last 25 years."
Is that why your Winston Cup sponsor - Home Depot - decided to become an associate sponsor with your World of Outlaws team?
"I definitely think so. It's the best open-wheel series in the country as far as dirt track racing is concerned. To be able go across country as many times as that series does in a year, and cover as many markets as they cover, the series does a good job of reaching people. They have the same attitude as NASCAR when it comes to expanding their reach. They cover a lot of markets that NASCAR doesn't, which is really good for the sponsors who are involved with us in Cup and with the Outlaws. It's good for Home Depot and J.D. Byrider and others who are already involved in Winston Cup racing. The Outlaw program gives them another avenue to cover another part of the country and still have a Winston Cup connection through me, but with a different type of car and a different driver in a different part of the country where the people are used to seeing Outlaw cars run."
How do you balance your time between your World of Outlaws program and your Winston Cup responsibilities?
"There are seven or eight Outlaw races this year where we're going to be racing Cup at the same place at the same time. I'll do my job with The Home Depot Chevrolet during the day, but at night I'll be with the Outlaw team. The biggest thing is just communication. We've got the right people to do the right jobs. I'm really confident in Jimmy Carr and what he does with the race car and Danny during the race. He has really good organizational skills too, with what he does at the shop in keeping the place organized. He makes sure that the things that need to get done are handled. The nice thing is that I'm never more than a phone call away. If they ever have questions, all they ever have to do is call."
Before you can head to The Dirt Track, you have to qualify and race on the asphalt track. What does it take to get around Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
"It's definitely a momentum track. It's different from the mile-and-a-half ovals that you see at Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas because of the fact that it doesn't have as much banking. It makes it very critical that you're able to roll through the corners as fast as you can, obviously. It's that way everywhere we go. At Vegas, every little bit where you break your momentum in the center of the corner, it shows up a lot more than it does at a place like Atlanta, Charlotte or Texas. With the corners being as flat as they are, if our Home Depot Chevrolet is just a little bit off, it'll show up big on the stopwatch."
Is Las Vegas Motor Speedway similar to California or Michigan Speedway?
"No. The corners are tighter. It's tighter coming off turn four and tighter going into turn one than it is at either Michigan or California. That's why the handling is so important there. Because the corners are tighter, it makes it really important that The Home Depot Chevrolet rolls through there free - not tight or loose. It's a real important track in terms of balance."