DETROIT (June 20, 2000) - Home Depot Pontiac driver Tony Stewart caught everybody by surprise last year when he qualified on the outside of the front row for his first NASCAR Winston Cup road race at Sears Point Raceway. He continued delivering ...
DETROIT (June 20, 2000) - Home Depot Pontiac driver Tony Stewart caught everybody by surprise last year when he qualified on the outside of the front row for his first NASCAR Winston Cup road race at Sears Point Raceway. He continued delivering surprises during the race when it took a flat tire to keep him from finishing in the top five. Everybody was surprised - everybody except Stewart.
This week Stewart goes back to Sears Point looking to grab his third victory in the month of June, and continue his ascent back toward the top of the Winston Cup point standings as it approaches the mid-point of the 2000 season.
THOUGHTS FROM TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX
How did you adapt so quickly to road racing?: "I raced on road courses in go-karts when I was younger, so I've driven road courses before. I went out to the Bondurant school and had Chris Cook as my instructor out there. He was really good at knowing what I needed to learn to drive a (Winston) Cup car. He's run a couple of Busch races, so he really knew what areas I needed to focus on. Having him as an instructor gave me things to think about before we went to Sonoma and Watkins Glen, and that gave me the mindset that I could be good on the road courses."
How do you think crew chief Greg Zipadelli adapted so quickly to the road courses?: "Well I think that he's run in the Busch North Series a bunch and run the modifieds, and both of those divisions have to run at Watkins Glen. He's probably got some experience from both of those divisions. Obviously, he's been with a (Winston) Cup team in the past that's run road courses. He's got a really good ability to adapt quickly, like I feel I do in some cases. I'm just fortunate to have a guy like that who can adapt so quickly to different styles of racing."
Do you feel that road courses are the weakest part of the team's overall program?: "Not really. Everybody is kind of in the same boat. We all only run two road course races a year. I feel like that was one of our strong suits. We were running third and had a flat tire at Sonoma. We ran sixth at Watkins Glen. We had some brake problems there that kept us from running any faster than what we were able to run. I feel like we've got a pretty good road course program. I feel like that's one of our assets right now. It's just not something that we focus really hard on because we do only have two races on the schedule that are road courses."
Is it tough for a Winston Cup team to justify focusing many resources on a road course program, when it accounts for two of 34 events?: "I think we do a pretty good job of allotting the proper amount of time to the road courses. It's not that you neglect the ovals.
"The road courses pay the same amount of points to win that an oval does. You've got to prepare in the same way and you got to prepare with the same intensity. We want to win both of those races just like we wanted to win Dover and Michigan. It's important that you do concentrate on those and not take the attitude that they're not as important as the rest of the races because there's only two of them."
Does the NASCAR Winston Cup Series need road racing?: "I think we need dirt races but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. It doesn't matter to me. All that I care about is that every week I've got to go out and beat all the other guys that are out on the race track when they drop the green flag on Sunday. I enjoy it. To me it's kind of a nice change of pace. It's nice to do something different twice a year."
Do you feel that, as a NASCAR driver, you're more well-rounded than drivers in other series?: "I don't know. There are a lot of guys who are in the (Winston) Cup Series who came from different forms of motorsports or have driven different divisions in the past. They've all probably road raced at some point in their careers. You look at Jerry Nadeau. He's got a good road racing background. There are guys who drove road races before they got here. So I don't think I'm any better than anyone else."
Is it comforting to know that the Winston Cup Series is not faced with the same type of uncertainty that currently exists in American open-wheel racing?: "I came here because this was the style of racing that I really wanted to do. I felt like it suited my driving style better than the other forms of racing that I was running. "It's nice to know that the series you're in is going to be around 10 years from now instead of wondering from year to year what's going to happen. It' s hard enough to go out and do our jobs each week without having to listen to two different organizations bicker back and forth with each other and have to listen to everybody else bicker about it. It's nice to come here and know that it has such a good fan following, and that it's a stable and solid series."