CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Nov. 21, 2000) - After spending 38 weekends over the past 10 months racing, Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Nov. 21, 2000) - After spending 38 weekends over the past 10 months racing, Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, is going racing again.
Even though the grueling Winston Cup season is over, Stewart's racing season continues. While most folks will be sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast on Thursday, Stewart will be sitting behind the wheel of a USAC Midget for car owner Steve Lewis for the Home Depot Turkey Night Grand Prix at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
Why race on Thanksgiving? For Stewart, the answer is, "Why not?"
What's special about Turkey Night?
"When you run Midgets there are a lot of marquee events. The Chili Bowl in Tulsa (Okla.), the Night Before the 500 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, the Hoosier Dome, and Turkey Night's on that list. It's a little more special for me because my longtime friend, attorney and business manager, Cary Agajanian, along with his family have promoted that event for years. It's an important race for me because of his involvement and his family's involvement in the past. The race has a lot of history behind it, and it's just a marquee event for Midget racing."
(This year marks the 60th annual running of Turkey Night. - Ed.)
Going to Turkey Night is a reunion of sorts for you, isn't it?
"Yeah, it is. I won the 1995 USAC National Midget championship with Steve Lewis, and he's the guy I'll be driving for on Turkey Night. In fact, it's been a while since I've run a Midget. But the last time I raced a USAC Midget I won. It was at Phoenix in January during the 2000 Copper World Classic."
(The 1995 USAC National Midget championship was just one of three USAC championships Stewart won in 1995, as he became the only driver to win USAC's Triple Crown - garnering the National Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown titles. - Ed.)
What is racing at Irwindale like?
"It's a big momentum track. Handling is really important too, but there's a lot of momentum involved. The straightaways aren't very long, but it has big, long, sweeping corners. Even though you have to be able to get up off the corner, you have to keep your momentum up in the center of the corner as well."
After racing in Winston Cup 38 weekends out of the year, is this your way of
"Absolutely. I think Joe (Gibbs, Winston Cup car owner) understands that this is relaxation for me. I think he's realizing that this is what I have to do to reset myself over the wintertime. It makes me feel more ready when I climb into The Home Depot Pontiac for GM testing down at Daytona (Fla.) in January. It's nice that Turkey Night comes at the end of the year - one week after we finish our Winston Cup schedule. It's good for me to be able to go out there the very next weekend and know that I'm still sharp from running the weekend before. It's an excellent way to start my off-season."
Are you taking anyone with you to Turkey Night?
"I'm taking Scott Diehl, one of my crew guys on The Home Depot team. And we're taking some media along with us - Monte Dutton, a motorsports writer. We're just taking a lot of people who want to be a part of it - people who just want to go out and have a good time. There's no pressure in going out to Turkey Night. But, when the main starts there will be pressure on me because I want to win it really bad, and I know that my opportunities of winning that race are getting fewer and fewer. It's going to be a lot of fun for us to go out and get away from the Winston Cup scene for a weekend, and be able to not worry about point standings and prize money. All we're looking for out of this weekend is a trophy."