Las Vegas: Tony Stewart preview

Tony Stewart A Million Reasons to Win in Vegas ATLANTA (Feb. 26, 2002) - It's only fitting that five drivers, with Tony Stewart being one of them, have the opportunity to cash in on a $1 million bonus if they win Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup...

Tony Stewart
A Million Reasons to Win in Vegas

ATLANTA (Feb. 26, 2002) - It's only fitting that five drivers, with Tony Stewart being one of them, have the opportunity to cash in on a $1 million bonus if they win Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series race in the town that invented big cash bonuses.

Las Vegas, home to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and round number three on the Winston Cup circuit, is where Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Bobby Hamilton will vie for a million dollars thanks to their top-five finish in last year's EA SPORTS 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

The Winston No Bull 5 as it's called, is made up of five races - the UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 at Las Vegas, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.), the Pepsi 400 at Daytona (Fla.), the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond (Va.) and the EA SPORTS 500 at Talladega.

If one of the five aforementioned drivers wins at Las Vegas, they earn a $1 million bonus, as does a fan, who drawn from a sweepstakes, is paired with the driver. If none of the drivers win this weekend at Las Vegas, the top-five from the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 become eligible for the next No Bull 5 race at Charlotte in May. The money, however, does not roll over. This a cycle that keeps repeating itself for these five races, year after year.

The fan pairing for Sunday's race takes place Thursday afternoon on the Las Vegas strip at the Mandalay Bay. There, five new fans will be paired with the five eligible drivers.

But that's not the only thing going on at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The World of Outlaws, where Stewart owns the team of reigning champion Danny Lasoski, is set to race this weekend as well. Since the Outlaws race at night at the dirt track located just across the street, expect Stewart to change from his Home Depot firesuit at the end of the day, put on jeans and a sweatshirt, and continue to be the hands-on owner that helped earn Lasoski his first Outlaw championship.

Does running for a $1 million bonus change the way you or your race team prepare for a race?

"It doesn't make any difference, to be honest. If it did make a difference, then that would mean we weren't doing our job at the races that don't pay a million dollar bonus. We have to treat it just like another race. The only thing is that if we win, it'll pay an extra million dollars. That's the way we'll approach the race."

You were able to test at Las Vegas in late January. Had the track changed much since you were there for last year's Winston Cup race?

"We just learned a lot. We have a different shock and spring package than what we had there last time because we're not able to use bump stops this year. The test just gave us a good opportunity to go out there and learn about some stuff that we hadn't really dealt with in the past."

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 Pontiac 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 as defending champions?

"We won the first race of the year last weekend so we've got a good start to the year. It was a big momentum booster for the team more than anything, especially for Danny. We're definitely where we want to be."

Does your World of Outlaws team have everything under control or do they still look to you for leadership?

"They're pretty much self-sufficient. The biggest thing for me is making sure they have all the equipment they need. Danny is a great driver so I don't really need to do anything to help him. Jimmy Carr is a great crew chief and we've got great crew guys. For me, it's just a matter of making sure the bills get paid."

As a car owner, what challenges do you see facing the World of Outlaws circuit this year?

"Knowing that Ted Johnson is the president of the World of Outlaw series gives you the piece of mind as a car owner that the series is in good hands. Ted has always made good business decisions for the series to not only benefit the World of Outlaws, but to benefit the race teams and the participants. As a car owner, I know that Ted is going to do everything he can to help himself with the series but also to help the people who allowed the series to get where it is today."

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 Pontiac 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 Pontiac 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 Pontiac rolls through there free - not tight or loose. It's a real important track in terms of balance."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Bobby Hamilton , Tony Stewart