DETROIT (January 12, 2000) - Prior to the start of the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup season, Tony Stewart and his Home Depot Pontiac teammates had simple goals: qualify for all the races and run as many laps as possible. To put it mildly, they met...
DETROIT (January 12, 2000) - Prior to the start of the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup season, Tony Stewart and his Home Depot Pontiac teammates had simple goals: qualify for all the races and run as many laps as possible. To put it mildly, they met their objectives and met them in a big way.
Not only did they qualify for all the races, but they captured two poles. And not only did they run a lot of laps, but they ran a lot of those laps faster than anybody else. The Home Depot Grand Prix led at 17 of 34 events, led the most laps five times, claimed three victories and finished fourth in the final 1999 series point standings.
On Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 17 and 18, Stewart and his mates will return to Daytona International Speedway for their first test of the year on the famed 2.5-mile high-banked tri-oval. Despite the fact that everyone around them has placed new expectations on the team, Stewart insists the Joe Gibbs-led operation will continue to focus on what got them to where they are.
"It is hard to say if I have adjusted my expectations for 2000 based on the success of the 1999 season because I am the most surprised by our results."
"Our team has to keep focused on what got us our success in '99--take one race at a time and not look ahead to races beyond where we are in the schedule.
"All of our people are staying in place this year so we don't have to worry about getting used to working with new guys. We know what we did to be successful in '99-it will take the same effort for 2000."
"We all stayed focused on our goals and raced each race as they came along, not getting ahead of ourselves. It obviously paid off for us. The easiest thing to adjust to was the success we had on the track. It is the other things off the track that have been a little difficult to get used to, but it is a good problem to have."
"I felt going into my rookie season I was the weakest link in The Home Depot Pontiac team. I knew Joe Gibbs had given me the best possible people and equipment with Greg Zipadelli and the crew. I was the one without any Winston Cup experience.
"Greg and I were able to develop a level of communication that built great chemistry almost immediately. That chemistry and trust allowed me to develop the confidence I needed in myself as a Winston Cup driver. As the season went on, I steadily gained confidence in myself which in turn helped further the confidence of the team."
"We have set what we feel is a realistic goal for 2000--another top-five finish in the final point standings. To achieve the consistency necessary to attain that goal, we have to improve our qualifying efforts. Consistency in qualifying up front will contribute to strong finishes.
"With the luck that is also a key ingredient, we can match or maybe exceed our '99 wins, accumulate a solid top-5 and top-10 finishing record and achieve a solid top-5 points position at the end of the year."