CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Aug. 8, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Aug. 8, 2000) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, has proven to be a talented road course racer despite his limited experience.
With only three road course races under his belt as a Winston Cup driver, Stewart has qualified no worse than fourth. In this year's race at Sears Point, Stewart took the lead from Scott Pruett for a brief moment before a touch of the flu ended what might have been career win number six. (Stewart eventually notched career win number six at New Hampshire on July 9. - Ed) John Andretti subbed admirably for Stewart for the remainder of the race, piloting The Home Depot Pontiac from 28th in the field all the way to a 10th place finish.
With what could have been still on the minds of Stewart and the Joe Gibbs Racing Team, the outfit tested for two days at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International immediately following the July event at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Knowing the potential that you had at Sears Point, do you go into the final road course race of the year at Watkins Glen with some added determination to win that race?
"I don't know about added determination, but we look forward to it from the standpoint that we feel like we've got just as good a shot at running well at Watkins Glen as we did at Sears Point. In both (road course) races last year we raced well and qualified well. At Watkins Glen in particular, we did all that with just four laps of practice. So, I feel like we've got a good shot at running well this year."
(When rain fell prior to first round qualifying for last year's race at Watkins Glen, it marked the debut of Goodyear's wet weather tire at a points-paying Winston Cup race. Stewart made only four laps in the wet before returning to the garage area. - Ed)
You don't have a lot of road course experience, but you seem to excel on road courses nonetheless. Why do you think that's the case and how do you do it?
"Going to the Bondurant school last year helped out a bunch. I had road raced with go-karts a little bit when I was growing up, so I'm sure that didn't hurt. But race cars are race cars. Turning right involves the same principles that turning left does. So, I don't think there's any special magic to it."
(A few weeks prior to last year's Winston Cup race at Sears Point, Stewart visited the Bob Bondurant Driving School in Phoenix. There, instructor Chris Pook helped Stewart dust off his road racing skills, as the last time The Home Depot pilot had competed on a road course was in 1987 when he won the World Karting Association national championship. - Ed)
You tested at Watkins Glen a couple of weeks ago. How did that go and what did you work on?
"We didn't make any qualifying runs. We strictly worked on race setups. I felt like we had a good test. I think there were a couple of cars that were a tick quicker than us, but we were really close to them. When we go back we're definitely going to have a better motor in the car than we had for the test. We think that we learned some other things from the test that'll help us when we go back there also."
How does Watkins Glen differ from Sears Point?
"The difference between Watkins Glen and Sears Point and the reason why Watkins Glen is a more technical race track is because the corners are a lot faster. If you break your momentum just a little bit, it shows up big time. Right now, we're in a string of tracks where momentum is a big factor. It seems like forward bite is more of an issue at Sears Point because you've got to work so hard to get the car to turn. At Watkins Glen, you try to do as much as you can to try to keep your momentum up and not break it in any way."
You play racing video games that use a simulation of the Watkins Glen road course. Are there any similarities? How dissimilar are they?
"To be honest, I haven't played any of them lately. I just haven't had any time with our schedule as busy as it is. Some of them have been fairly similar in the past, but they keep coming out with newer games and I don't know if they're more realistic or less realistic than the previous games I've played."
You just finished competing at a very historical race track - Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Do you view Watkins Glen in the same light because of its F1 history?
"I guess we really don't think about it as much. F1 isn't as big here as CART, the IRL or Winston Cup. I look at it as one of 34 races on our schedule."
TONY STEWART'S ROAD COURSE PERFORMANCE PROFILE Year Event Start Finish Status/Laps Earnings 2000 Sears Point 4 10 Running/112 $73,610 1999 Sears Point 2 15 Running/112 $43,965 Watkins Glen 4 6 Running/90 $45,240