CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Feb. 22, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Feb. 22, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix, heads into North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham coming off a 17th place showing in last Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500. The 1999 Rookie of the Year winner eagerly anticipates racing at the 1.017-mile oval for two reasons. Reason number one - he runs well there, and reason number two - after enduring 10 days of restrictor plate racing at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Stewart is ready for a change of pace.
Why do you look forward to Rockingham so much after racing at Daytona?
"I enjoy going to Rockingham because I really feel that's where our season starts. That's a track where you don't really worry about what everybody else's car is doing, you worry about what your car is doing. You're racing the race track. You're not racing everybody else. It's a good opportunity to get back into the swing of things. Once you leave Rockingham, you feel like the season has officially started. It's one of those places that I've run well in both my Busch car and in my Home Depot Pontiac. It's a good place to go racing."
What does it take to get around Rockingham quickly?
"Making sure the car has a really good balance to where you're not having to use the tires up by leaning on them hard to go fast. If you can get the car driving well enough that you can run a good pace without pushing the car, then normally halfway through a run you're really good and you're really starting to pull away from guys whose cars aren't quite as balanced as yours. They're having to use up their tires a little more than you."
What do you do if your car isn't balanced?
"You just make sure you don't lean on them (tires) any more than you have to. If you have to run hard to keep the pace, then you have to run hard. But you just try to be as easy on them as you can, maybe be smoother on the race track by finding a line that's a little less abrasive by changing the balance of the car. There are some spots on the track that'll make your car freer and some that'll make it tighter. Depending on what your car's balance is doing, you need to move around on the race track to help it out."
GREG ZIPADELLI, crew chief on the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix.
What kind of setup does it take to get around Rockingham?
"You just need a good car that'll live a long time. That place kills tires in a heartbeat. It's a matter of getting your car balanced. We're going to work really hard on shocks like we did last year. If we can maximize our grip through our shocks, it'll make us better in the long run.
"We were really happy with the way we qualified and ran off the truck last year. We had a terrible day with pit stops and some other things that put us behind, so we finished 12th. But our Home Depot Pontiac was much better than what we finished. So, we're kind of excited about bringing the same car back. Hopefully, we'll qualify up front again and vie for our first win of the year."