Richmond Could be Breakout for Tony Stewart

DETROIT (May 2, 2000) - Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix driver Tony Stewart has no problem recalling his last trip to Richmond International Raceway. It was last September when Stewart recorded his first NASCAR Winston Cup career victory and lit the...

DETROIT (May 2, 2000) - Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix driver Tony Stewart has no problem recalling his last trip to Richmond International Raceway. It was last September when Stewart recorded his first NASCAR Winston Cup career victory and lit the fuse on an explosive rookie campaign that turned out to be the best performance turned in by a first-year Winston Cup driver in 33 years.

This week Stewart returns to the flat .750-mile tri-oval for the Pontiac Excitement 400 looking to return to his dominant first-year form. The Rushville, Indiana, driver has yet to lead a lap in 2000 and has, by his own admission, struggled at times in his sophomore season. But the adversity faced by Stewart and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates this year has only deepened their motivation and drive to break out and return to championship form.

THOUGHTS FROM TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX

...on keeping his expectations in check as he returns to Richmond: "I think that with the way our season is going, we have to look at it like it's just another race. But it's going to be hard to not have in the back of your mind that this is where you won your first Winston Cup race and expect to run well. I'm not sure we'd go in there and expect to win again. I think we've got a shot to win, but to go there and expect it - we don't do that. But we do expect to run well and hopefully contend for the win."

...on Richmond's similarities to other tracks he ran during his short-track career: "It just reminded me of some of the shorter tracks that I've run. It had kind of the same feel that quarter-mile tracks did with some of the other cars that I've run with. It wasn't a big drastic change. It was like Phoenix the first time I went there. I hadn't been to a one-mile oval but once in my life, but when I got onto Phoenix, I adjusted and adapted to it r eally quick. It was a place where I was very comfortable right away. I had that same feeling when I went to Richmond for the first time with The Home Depot Grand Prix. I think every driver has a track that they go to and they get that same feeling. There are just some places that you go to where you adjust and it really suits your driving style."

...on why he became comfortable at Richmond so quickly: "Having run the Silver Crown car and the midget there in the past didn't hurt. It was just one of those tracks that I liked. It's the only three-quarter mile track we run on all year, but for some reason, it's a size that I really enjoy running on."

...on the value of those previous experiences heading into Winston Cup: "I knew were all the bumps were on the race track. It was just a matter of adjusting to what the Home Depot Pontiac wanted - knowing how to drive the car and letting it do what it wanted to do, instead of trying to force it into something that it didn't want to do."

...on the challenges of his second season: "We had a really good year last year. We didn't have very many problems. I knew that and the whole team knew that. But we didn't anticipate that we were going to have this many problems this year. I think we all knew that we were going to have a tougher year than what we had last year to get the job done, but I don't think anyone thought that it would turn out the way it has so far this year."

...is there any light at the end of the tunnel? "I don't know. I feel like I'm blind right now. I'm still learning how to use the walking stick at this point."

...on his team remaining focused despite their tough start: "That's what marks a great race team - a team that can come out of a slump like this and get back on track. I can guarantee you that we're not going to lay down and play dead for the rest of the year. We're going to work just as hard as we do every race. The results on Sunday are showing when we finish, it's just that we're having some bad luck too. But when we're running, we're running well."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing