Loudon II: Tony Stewart preview

Tony Stewart Final 10 Begins with New Hampshire ATLANTA (Sept. 9, 2003) - With 26 point races down and only 10 remaining, the marathon-like NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule is coming into its homestretch. And the first of the final 10 races...

Tony Stewart
Final 10 Begins with New Hampshire

ATLANTA (Sept. 9, 2003) - With 26 point races down and only 10 remaining, the marathon-like NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule is coming into its homestretch. And the first of the final 10 races comes this Sunday with the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon.

The 1.058-mile oval was resurfaced prior to the series' visit in July. Drivers applauded the new surface, as it gave them more passing opportunities through the track's corners, banked at a relatively scant 12 degrees. With almost two months having passed since Winston Cup drivers competed at New Hampshire, the track has had more time to cure, which means even more grip for the 3,400-pound race cars that drivers like Tony Stewart will be piloting.

His #20 Home Depot Chevrolet has visited victory lane only once this year - at Pocono (Pa.) in June - and Stewart enters New Hampshire looking to add to that total. Stewart has proven his merit at New Hampshire before, winning an IRL IndyCar race in 1998 and a Winston Cup race in July of 2000. And with only 10 races left, his desire to win is heightened. That may account for Stewart's typical late-season surge, where The Home Depot driver has nabbed six of his 16 career Winston Cup victories in the last three months of the season.

When you raced at New Hampshire in July, did you find that a second groove developed with the repaving of the corners? And over the course of the race, did your entry and exit change through the corners?

"I think it did. Depending on how our car drove we were able to move around on the race track and find ways to make our car work. It wasn't impossible to pass, by any means. It started widening out a little bit, and every time we go there it'll continue to widen out."

Was the racing at New Hampshire back in July an improvement over what it had been in year's past?

"Time will tell. If they just leave the track alone for a while, give it a couple of years to cure, we'll see what happens. But I think it'll keep getting better and better. It's something that only time can take care of."

Regardless of the complaints drivers have made over the years about the track surface at New Hampshire, the Bahre family - owners of the race track - seem to have done everything in their power to improve it. It seemed like they finally succeeded in July. Do you appreciate the efforts the Bahre family has put forth?

"Absolutely. They've worked really hard. I didn't think they ever had a bad race track, but I applaud them for trying to make it better. They aren't passive people. They won't just let things be the way they are. They had a nice race track to begin with and they've tried to make it even nicer. They're always looking to improve the place. Proof of that are the SAFER walls they've put up. It's just one more example of how far they'll go to make their race track better."

Is New Hampshire a good place to race?

"Obviously, I like it because I run well there. But at the same time, it's a tough track to pass on. You can be a couple of tenths faster than a guy, but it still takes you 20 laps to get by him. There are other tracks on the circuit where it's hard to pass, but we still go out and put on good shows there, too. Every race at Loudon seems to be a pretty good race. So, I like it. I enjoy racing there even though it is hard to pass. But when you've got a good car, it's always fun to race."

Explain a lap around New Hampshire.

"It's a big motor deal. With the corners being so tight, you've got to put a lot of gear in the car to get it up off the corner. Forward bite is always an issue there too - trying to get the car to go forward. So, it's hard to get up off the corners. Then you've got long straightaways where you can kind of relax a little bit. Coming into the corners, you use a lot of brake, and it's hard to not only get the car stopped, but to get it to turn. Then you go through that challenge all over again."

Because New Hampshire is a difficult race track, are some drivers beat before they even make a practice lap because they have a negative outlook about the race track?

"It certainly doesn't help if someone has a bad attitude going in there. It kind of puts a strike against you, but I'm not going to say that you're already beat. There are tracks that I've been to that weren't my favorite tracks, but I still found a way to win there. You've just got to stay focused and work hard to find what it takes to be good."

From a driver's perspective, what makes New Hampshire such a difficult race track?

"Just getting used to the surface is hard, because it seems to take some time to put together a (chassis) package that gets you around that place well."

With three NASCAR touring divisions racing at New Hampshire in addition to the Winston Cup Series, will we see you doing any extra-curricular racing?

"I'd love to run a Modified there. I've run with some of those guys in the past. I haven't had the most stellar Modified career by any means, but I did win a race in an SK Modified for Ted Christopher at Thompson (Conn.) this year. I really have a lot of respect for the Modified drivers after I had the chance to run with those guys. I'd love to have the opportunity to go race with them again."

NEW ENGLAND NATIVES COME HOME:

Five crew members of the #20 Home Depot Racing Team call New England home, and like most New Englanders, they grew up watching the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees rivalry. As the NASCAR Winston Cup Series rolls into New Hampshire International Speedway for the Sylvania 300, they do so while the Red Sox are in a heated pennant race with the New York Yankees. Below are three members of Red Sox Nation, one fence straddler and one Yankees follower with their thoughts on the latest chapter of the Red Sox versus the Yankees.

Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli from Berlin, Conn.:

Q: Red Sox or Yankees?

A: "Red Sox. I've been following them since I was a little boy, which means I've been disappointed since I was a little boy."

Q: Who will come out on top?

A: "I'm proud that my Sox have hung in there longer than they normally have, and to not risk further disappointment, I'll leave it at that."

Shock Specialist Dave Hansen from York, Maine:

Q: Red Sox or Yankees?

A: "Red Sox. I grew up watching them, so I've got to go with them."

Q: Who will come out on top?

A: "I just hope it doesn't work out like it has the last three or four years. We really haven't had too many good Septembers, but hopefully this September will turn out better than in year's past. But I'm not making any predictions. I've been depressed too many times and let down too many times."

Engineer Dave Rogers from Marshfield, Vt.:

Q: Red Sox or Yankees?

A: "Boston Red Sox. I followed them when I was growing up in Vermont, but not so much now as racing pretty much takes up my life."

Q: Who will come out on top?

A: "The Yankees might beat them out. I went to school in New York, so a little bit of that New York attitude rubbed off on me. I'm torn. I'm between a rock and hard place. I can't decide. This whole thing is upsetting me right now."

Mechanic and Brake Specialist Jason Shapiro from Essex, Conn.:

Q: Red Sox or Yankees?

A: "Yankees, of course. I just can't get into the whole tea party mentality. I like the Yankees. I think they stand for America. They're in your face and they don't ever back down. They go in, do their job, take care of what needs to be done and there's never an excuse. It seems like Boston always has a slew of good players, especially this year, but they can't get the job done."

Q: Who will come out on top?

A: "I can tell you exactly how the Yankees and the Red Sox are going to end up this year. The Yankees are going to end up going to the playoffs and the Sox are going to end up watching them."

Rear Tire Carrier Jay Barry from Hebron, Conn.:

Q: Red Sox or Yankees?

A: "Red Sox. You've got to go with them. I love everything about them - their underdog status, the Green Monster, Fenway - they're great baseball. I watched many Red Sox/Yankees games growing up, and some of my friends were for the Sox and some of my buddies were for the Yankees. But it always seemed like the Red Sox were taking a back seat to the Yankees. There's no doubt Steinbrenner has the money, so he can buy the talent."

Q: Who will come out on top?

A: "Red Sox, absolutely. Jason (Shapiro) is totally wrong. He's going to be home watching the playoffs just like the Yankees."

-jgr/hdr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Ted Christopher