Jiffy Lube 300 Advance New Hampshire International Speedway July 10, 1999 Note: Pontiac Grand Prix driver Tony Stewart has reeled off seven top-10 finishes in his last nine starts. He finished second to fellow Pontiac driver Buckshot Jones in...
Jiffy Lube 300 Advance New Hampshire International Speedway July 10, 1999
Note: Pontiac Grand Prix driver Tony Stewart has reeled off seven top-10 finishes in his last nine starts. He finished second to fellow Pontiac driver Buckshot Jones in last year's NASCAR Busch Series race at New Hampshire, giving him confidence heading into Sunday's Jiffy Lube 300.
TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "I'm happy with where we qualified. I feel like we have a real good car from the practice this morning. I'm looking forward to the race. I don't know if you base momentum on just one race, but I'd say the performance we've had the second quarter of the season has really built a lot of momentum for this team. I'm starting to build a lot of confidence with the guys on the crew. I'm getting a lot more confident and a lot more comfortable in the race car. I'd say every week we feel a little better than we did in the week before.
"It took about a week to feel like I was back to 100 percent again (after the double duty at Indianapolis and Charlotte). That surprised me. I never dreamed it would take that long to get caught back up. We had a pretty busy schedule and we never actually had a day where we could lay on the couch and rest. We were gone the next day back up to Indy the next day for the banquet that night. Our schedule just went on from there with test sessions and everything. After that week was over I've felt fine ever since.
"It's always an honor to be compared to Jeff (Gordon) and Earnhardt and Davey Allison and all those guys. I'm not patterning my rookie year off of him and I'm not sitting here saying, 'Well if I don't beat what he did his rookie year I'm going to be disappointed.' I don't care. I don't care what Jeff Gordon did his rookie year. I'm not Jeff Gordon. I'm Tony Stewart. I'm worried about what I'm doing this year and what we're doing as a team. We're trying to take this year and use it as a building block for the future. It's nice to be compared to him, but I really don't think about it much and really don't worry about it.
"The easiest way for me to describe it (his working relationship with Bobby Labonte) is that it's kind of like that commercial on TV where it has that Japanese guy and the other guy playing golf and they're talking about how much it costs for golf balls, titanium drivers, whatever. He hits the hole in one with a witness and it's priceless. That's what Bobby is. You can't put a value on how valuable he is to me this year. Everywhere we go he knows something about the race track, whether it's a sweet spot on the track where you can get a good drive off the corner or if there's a spot on the track where your car is going to feel bad. Everything that he teaches me every week is very, very valuable. I've got an unfair advantage over the other rookies this year because I have him.
"The easiest example is that if you look at Hendrick's three teams they are in three separate buildings. At our shop, if you look out there and if you took the paint off Bobby's cars and the paint off my cars and put them all in the same room you wouldn't know whose was whose without looking at the chassis numbers. We all work in the same room together. When Bobby and I get out of our cars we talk. Jimmy (Makar) and Greg (Zipadelli) talk. I talk with Jimmy. We're all shooting for the same goal. I'm trying to win rookie of the year and he's trying to win the championship. Whether it's something we stumble on or something they stumble on we figure it's better for both of us to have that information. We don't look at it from a standpoint that we don't want to tell them because they might beat us this week. My job is to help the 18 car win a championship. If I can give them any information to help them, trust me, I'm the first person to let them know. Whether I'm doing that job or not in this point of the season being a rookie, I don't know if I'm helping him a lot right now. But if there's anything I can do to help him, we're trying to do as much as possible at this point.
"We hope so (help Bobby more in second half). We look at it as we should be better off the second half of the season because Greg and I have had 17 races up to this point that we've worked together and most of the places we've been to at least once and we have a base to start from and we can start refining our setups. We can take that knowledge and hopefully apply it to the second half of the season to make ourselves better.
"I figured by this point in the season if you went to the shop you'd be able to tell which cars were Bobby's and which cars were mine, even with the paint off of them, because mine would be the ones with the front clips knocked off them and the rear clips knocked off them, hoods buckled and everything else. I figured we'd be replacing a lot of parts. We've been real fortunate that we've finished a lot of races and we haven't had a lot of trouble. It's been a big surprise to me how well we've done. It's a given that every week I'm going to show up with a good race car. It's worked out that way again. They built me a brand new car for here. It's one of the best cars I've ever had to drive. It's just an example of what I have as a rookie to deal with. They're a great race team. I didn't think from driving standpoint, I thought I'd make a lot more mistakes. There are a lot of mistakes I make on Sunday and you guys don't see it. Nobody else sees them and I know that I've made them. If it weren't for cars set up really well, I wouldn't be able to make those mistakes. If somebody would have told me at the beginning of the season we'd be in the top-10 in points I would have bet 100 to 1 odds against them saying they would have been wrong. There's no way I thought we would have run so well this early in the season.
"It's helped quite a bit (running a Busch car here). The IRL stuff, you can throw it out the window because you can't take any of it, but you're dealing with just less horsepower and more weight. I'm used to having more horsepower and that makes me feel more comfortable and the 100 pounds of more weight is the only thing I really have to deal with right now."