Pontiac Racing Winston preview - Ince, Moore, Stewart

Test Or Transfer: Teams Looking For Both In The Winston Open DETROIT, May 16, 2001 - Only two spots in the starting field remain for more than 25 teams vying for a chance at winning The Winston, NASCAR's prestigious all-star event of former...

Test Or Transfer: Teams Looking For Both In The Winston Open

DETROIT, May 16, 2001 - Only two spots in the starting field remain for more than 25 teams vying for a chance at winning The Winston, NASCAR's prestigious all-star event of former race winners and series champions on Saturday night in Charlotte. Their ticket into the show as at-large entries can only be obtained by winning either The Winston Open or the No Bull Sprint, which precede the main event on Saturday evening.

Pontiac Grand Prix teammates Johnny Benson and Ken Schrader are among those last minute hopefuls seeking a spot in the field of 21 drivers. Whether they make the select field or not, both will at least garner some valuable experience around the track that will host the next NASCAR points-paying race on May 27. Benson, who has posted two top-five and seven top 10 finishes this year in the Valvoline Pontiac, is looking to make his first start in The Winston. Schrader, who has six career top four finishes in The Winston, is hoping for his eighth all-star run in the M&M's Grand Prix.

James Ince, Crew Chief, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix

WHAT IS YOUR TEAM'S APPROACH TO THE WINSTON OPEN?
"We're trying to treat it more like a test for the '600' than we are anything. Naturally, we're going to try to run as well as we can run. But the big picture for us, by not already being locked into The Winston, is trying to get right for the '600.'"

IS IT WORTH IT TO GO THERE AND COMPETE FOR JUST A COUPLE OF STARTING SPOTS?
"I think it's worth it. Winston does a good job offering us opportunities to go out there and make a lot of money and not have to stress about points over the weekend. But it is a tough deal. Anybody can win The Open, more or less, and it doesn't really fit our style of racing. We set our Pontiacs up to run a really long time and try to be good at the end of 500 miles. It definitely takes some different thinking to be able to run well in that. "But it's definitely worth it because anytime you get laps on the racetrack, it helps a lot."

IS IT FUN FOR YOU TO HAVE TO THINK DIFFERENTLY LIKE THAT?
"It's almost frustrating, more so than it is fun. It provides opportunity for other race teams that maybe aren't as good right now at this part of the season to perform better, which is good for them. I'm sure the world thinks we're a shoe-in to win The Open and get into The Winston. I'm not sure we can pull that off, just because it is a different style for us."

HOW ABOUT THE ADDED PRESSURE OF BEING CONSIDERED A FAVORITE TO WIN THE OPEN?
"That's a tough deal for us because this race does go totally against what we normally do."

Newt Moore, Crew Chief, No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix

WHAT IS YOUR TEAM'S APPROACH TO THE WINSTON OPEN?
"We're using it as a test. But, we went and tested for two days there and felt we were pretty good, so we're also going there to win it. That's a lot of money right there. We're going to get out there and try to go as fast as we can and see where we end up. If we can win that thing, that's what we want to do. "But it's definitely a major test. This is a brand new car that we're taking. We were pretty good in race trim out there. We had the car really getting through the bumps good. It's a really good race car. It's a copy of what the '10' (Johnny Benson) is going to take. We're going to be identical as far as set-ups and stuff. We're looking forward to it."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR TEAM RIGHT NOW?
"By everybody else's expectations, things are going better. By mine, things are probably not as good as I would like to see them. I would say everybody is probably 75 percent happy with our progress. "Kenny [Schrader] is happier. We're giving him stuff he can drive, and we're getting a little closer to the '10,' so we're working more like a two-car team. Things are better. We're just working hard. We've tested somewhere every week for the last three weeks now and we're going to test somewhere next week, too."

HOW IS THE CHEMISTRY DEVELOPING BETWEEN YOU AND KEN?
"He believes what I tell him and he believes that we're going to do better. He believes we're going to win a race this year in this Pontiac. He's got that confidence back. He's got race cars that he can race now, where before, I don't know if he had that confidence or not. He feels really good about what he's got. "As far as our chemistry - if you can't get along with Schrader, you can't get along with anybody. It's just really easy. We're getting along really, really well. I don't see anything but good things from here. "I'm as happy as I've ever been at any race team from the day I started in Winston Cup to now. A lot of it has to do with the driver; a lot of it has to do with [team manager] Jay Frye. I can see building things for a long time here."

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Just How Hot is Tony Stewart Right Now?

As the NASCAR Winston Cup Series takes its second week away from points racing, Home Depot Pontiac driver Tony Stewart can lay legitimate claim to the title of "Winston Cup's hottest driver."

During the past four races - a stretch that began at Martinsville on April 8 - Stewart has scored more points than any other driver on the tour. He started his run with a seventh at Martinsville, added a second a Talladega, a fourth at California and his first win of the 2001 season in the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond on May 5.

The standings during the four-race run also include Pontiac drivers Bobby Labonte (sixth) and Johnny Benson (seventh).

"It's always good to get your first win of the year," said Stewart. "It always seems like it takes us a long time to get that first one. But once we get the first one, they seem to come a little more frequently.

"I don't have a crystal ball to see the rest of the season unfortunately. But if history repeats itself we've got a lot to look forward to the last half of the season." <pre> Top 10 In Points -- Past Four Races (In Parentheses: Current Overall Points Position, Points Position Four Races Ago)

 1. Tony Stewart, 661  (7th, 17th)
 2. Rusty Wallace, 618  (3rd, 6th)
 3. Ricky Rudd, 616  (6th, 11th)
 4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 598  (10th, 20th)
 5. Jeff Gordon, 564  (2nd, 2nd)
 6. Bobby Labonte, 538  (13th, 25th)
 7. Johnny Benson, 534  (4th, 3rd)
 8. Sterling Marlin, 532  (5th, 5th)
 9. Matt Kenseth, 525  (11th, 23rd)
10. Dale Jarrett, 503  (1st, 1st)

-Pontiac Racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Ken Schrader , Sterling Marlin , Johnny Benson