TONY STEWART In the 702, Where My Wins At? KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 24, 2010) -- During Tony Stewart's rookie year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 1999, the female R&B music group 702 released "Where My Girls At?," a song that remained in the...
In the 702, Where My Wins At?
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 24, 2010) -- During Tony Stewart's rookie year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 1999, the female R&B music group 702 released "Where My Girls At?," a song that remained in the top-20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 30 weeks.
The group's name came about from its female members hailing from Las Vegas, which uses 702 as its telephone area code.
While 702 sang "Where My Girls At?," Stewart has been asking the 702-located racetrack -- Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- "Where My Wins At?" For of all the venues that host both the Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Las Vegas is the lone racetrack where Stewart has yet to record a victory.
It's certainly not for a lack of effort, as the driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing has recorded four top-five and six top-10 finishes while leading a total of 185 laps in his 11 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval. He has four Nationwide Series starts at Las Vegas and finished third in 2007 driving for Kevin Harvick Inc. However, it was in the 2008 Nationwide Series race where Stewart appeared poised to cross Las Vegas off his "to-do" list.
Driving a No. 20 Old Spice Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Stewart led twice for 61 laps, and after his then JGR teammate Kyle Busch crashed out when a flat tire sent him into the wall, there was no other driver even close to matching the pace set by Stewart. But an accident with a lapped car on lap 137 of the 202-lap race sent Stewart hard into the SAFER Barrier along the outside retaining wall in turn three, ending his shot at visiting Las Vegas' victory lane.
Even though a win hasn't been earned at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Stewart has in fact won a race on the track's grounds. It came in November 2002 at the Las Vegas Bullring, located just behind turns one and two of the 1.5-mile oval, where Stewart swept the USAC (United States Auto Club) Sprint/Midget doubleheader.
Coming off a ninth-place finish last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Stewart returns to Las Vegas ready to notch that much desired win -- on the big track and in the big-time, for Sprint Cup is the only race on Stewart's docket this weekend.
Sunday's Shelby American is the sole focus for Stewart and the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot team, and since the Sprint Cup Series only visits Las Vegas once a year, it's Stewart's one chance to put a checkmark in the win column next to the currently vacant box that reads "Las Vegas."
The winner at Las Vegas is typically greeted in victory lane by two of The Strip's famous showgirls, so should Stewart take the checkered flag, he could join 702 in asking, "Where my girls at?"
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
A lot of importance was placed on last Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and it seems an equal amount of importance is placed on the upcoming race at Las Vegas. Why?
"These early races teach you very quickly where your program is compared to the competition. If your cars are good, you'll run well at California, Vegas, Atlanta, Texas and so on. Everybody wants to know where they stack up and shake up right now. If you can get off to a good start, it shows that your program is really where it needs to be. This is a huge week."
What is your outlook for this weekend's race at Las Vegas?
"It's no different at Las Vegas than anywhere else. You have to get the car to rotate through the corner, but still stay tight enough on entry and exit. There's no unique challenges there. The track is really smooth and that lets you work on the attitude of your car, and I think that's a luxury that we have there that we don't necessarily always get everywhere else because every track has its unique set of bumps. Vegas has bumps too, but for the most part, it's so smooth that you can really fine-tune the attitude of the car."
How is Las Vegas Motor Speedway different from Auto Club Speedway, site of last week's Sprint Cup race?
"The corners are tighter. It's tighter coming off turn four and tighter going into turn one than it is at California. That's why the handling is so important there. Because the corners are tighter, it makes it really important that the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet rolls through there free -- not tight or loose. It's a real important track in terms of balance."
Your USAC teams race Thursday night at The Dirt Track, and then your World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series teams race Friday night at The Dirt Track. It's not often when the schedules of your open-wheel teams coincide with your Sprint Cup schedule. Are you looking forward to a busy week as an owner and a driver?
"Oh, yeah. It's really a cool weekend because we get to watch the USAC guys on Thursday and then the Outlaws guys on Friday, so I get to see both sides of my open-wheel teams run two days in a row, and then I get to play the rest of the weekend. So I'm excited about that. That's what makes going to Las Vegas and Charlotte (N.C.) so much fun is that we do get to see our other programs running. We'll get to see all of our teams out there and that will be fun."
You've been a team owner in Sprint Cup for a little over a year now. How has life changed, if it's changed at all?
"It hasn't changed from the driving side. I think I've been on the ownership side long enough not only with the Cup stuff, but with my open-wheel teams, that it's just business as usual. When you get in the car, you're just thinking about being a driver. You're not thinking about making payroll at the end of the week or all the other things that you worry about when you're outside the car. When you're in the car, if you're thinking about anything other than driving the car, then you probably shouldn't be in there to begin with. For me, that's something that's been really easy to separate."
Stewart-Haas Racing receives its engines from Hendrick Motorsports. All of the top teams have an in-house engine program. Do you ever envision creating an in-house engine program at Stewart-Haas Racing?
"I don't see us making plans to do that. You look at Hendrick's engine program, and I don't think they're lacking anything there. The last four years have proven that. I think you look at past experiences and you look at Darrell Waltrip's experiences as a car owner, and he'll be the first one to tell you that was the mistake he made was going from a program like that, which kept him where he needed to be, to thinking he could make it better by starting his own program. That actually led to the end of it. We've got a great partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, and I don't see us straying off from their program and their engines. The opportunity to work with those guys and our input on top of Jeff's (Gordon) and Jimmie's (Johnson) and Dale's (Earnhardt Jr.) and Mark's (Martin) input that they have from their program. Being able to have our two cents worth in this program makes it better for all six of us."