Michigan Home Depot Racing Preview

TONY STEWART Michigan Means Mileage…and Outlaw Racing CHARLOTTE, N.C., (June 6, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...

TONY STEWART
Michigan Means Mileage…and Outlaw Racing

CHARLOTTE, N.C., (June 6, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, plans to take care of some unfinished business this weekend when he heads to Michigan Speedway for the Kmart 400.

In last year's Kmart 400, Stewart's #20 machine ran out of gas on the white flag lap, notching the only DNF of the 1999 campaign. But it wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been, as Stewart crossed the finish line in ninth-place for what was then his seventh top-10 of the season.

When Stewart and The Home Depot team returned to the two-mile oval in August, they also returned to their front-running ways. A third-place finish was their result in the Pepsi 400 after charging through the field from 37th on the grid.

Stewart will do some charging off the track as well this year, when he and some fellow Winston Cuppers climb aboard his Commander 690-A airplane to see the first World of Outlaws race to be held at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

The Outlaws take to the dirt-clad .533-mile oval on Friday and Saturday, and Stewart will make the approximately 500-mile commute from Brooklyn, Mich., to Bristol on both evenings.

Going into this year's race at Michigan, do you feel like you have some unfinished business to attend to, as that was your only DNF of the 1999 season?

"I feel like we've still got some homework that needs to be done. I didn't qualify very well at either one of the Michigan races. For some reason, I tend to struggle in qualifying on the mile-and-a-half ovals. But like a lot of the places we go to, as soon as they drop the green for the race, we seem to figure it all out. That one qualifying lap that we made on Friday doesn't seem that important once the race gets underway. Even though The Home Depot Pontiac ran well, we weren't really a contender to win any one of the two races there. (Dale) Jarrett pretty much obliterated the field last year in the spring race. Then in the fall, it was a really good race. I was a part of it at the end. I had probably one of the best seats in the house in watching the finish. We've got some homework to do. But at the same time, I'm excited that we do run as well as we do there."

Why does a race at Michigan always seem to come down to fuel mileage?

"I don't know. I guess it's just a characteristic of that kind of track. I haven't really been around long enough to know for sure, but it just seems like that's the magic word there - fuel economy. You try to do everything you can to make the engine run as efficiently as possible all day."

Why are you going to be flying back and forth between Michigan and Bristol see the World of Outlaws race?

"I think it's a sin if you don't go to Bristol, either for the Have-A-Tampa weekend or for the Outlaw weekend and at least see what the place looks like with dirt on it. Whether it's a success or not is still to be determined. If they never decide to do it again I want to at least say I was there when they did it. I wouldn't normally jump in a jet two nights in a row and leave a Cup weekend to fly and watch Outlaws race then come back the same night. But this is kind of a special deal to watch the Outlaws at Bristol on dirt of all things. I just didn't want to miss it."

Who do you think has the best shot to win the Outlaw race and why?

"You can't pick anyone in that series. That series is harder to pick a winner than the Busch or Winston Cup Series these days. That's especially true at a new facility, because you never know who's going to go fast there and who's going to figure out the setup in the shortest amount of time. If there's one thing that I'm positive of is that it's going to be a good race to watch."

Have any other folks from the Winston Cup garage asked to go with you to Bristol?

"Oh man, there's people left and right trying to find out if I've got any seats left on my plane. The price keeps going up on those seats, I can tell you that. It'll be interesting. I think a lot of us want to go because there's a lot of us in the garage area who not only love Winston Cup racing, but we also love other forms of racing, and the World of Outlaws is no exception. Now that they've started to run at Bruton's (Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc.) other facilities, it's something that everybody has become really excited about."

You obviously have a keen interest in the World of Outlaws now, but next year you'll have a vested interest in that series as an owner with Danny Lasoski as your driver. How is that progressing?

"It's getting closer. I think we're getting really close to signing a major sponsor. At the same time, we've got a commitment from an associate sponsor. We need one or two more associates and we can have this thing done and possibly have a car ready for the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals if the sponsorship comes in time. It's kind of taken a little bit of weight off my shoulders knowing that we've got about 70 percent of the sponsorship secured. We just need the other 30 percent."

* * *

The following are quotes from CHRIS "WOODY" WOODWARD, engine specialist on the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix, about fuel mileage at Michigan Speedway.

How do you balance getting the maximum amount of horsepower with the maximum amount of fuel mileage at Michigan?

"Generally, you've got to shoot for the maximum amount of horsepower. If you go too conservative all day, then you're just riding around. You're not going to be in contention to win. You can definitely lean 'em down to the point where your fuel mileage is going to be better, but you're not going to run very well."

How much of a factor does the weather play in a race car's fuel mileage?

"Quite a bit. The biggest factors that we look at are the vapor pressure number and the density altitude number, which determines how much fuel and timing we can use. Obviously, you need to use whatever amount of fuel you need to make maximum horsepower for the day. Then, you usually don't mess with that too much because disaster could occur if you try to go outside of those boundaries."

How do you adjust how much fuel an engine consumes over the course of a race?

"There are several things that we can play with on The Home Depot Pontiac. Carburetor jettings are one of them. Air bleeds are another thing that you can manipulate. There are a lot of little things that you can do. Generally though, the biggest factor in fuel mileage is the driver - when he gets on the gas and how hard he gets on the gas are key."

Out of all the races on the Winston Cup schedule, is Michigan one of the more stressful races for you?

"We've had a lot of stressful races. It's gotten to the point now where any track you go to can come down to fuel mileage, especially when cautions fall in odd places. Any race weekend, fuel mileage can be an issue. Martinsville (Va.) this year was a perfect example. We ran out of gas on our target lap. Fortunately, we were on our way in anyway. But it just goes to show that you can never go to a track and say, 'Fuel mileage won't be an issue here.' That's not the way it happens. Every week I lean on it just as hard as I can to the point where I'm comfortable that the engine will live all day."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart