Daytona: Tony Stewart preview

TONY STEWART Ready to Shine Up his Daytona Credentials and his Cars DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 12, 2008) -- Tony Stewart has visited victory lane at Daytona International Speedway 11 times. Two of those trips have been after the checkered flag...

Ready to Shine Up his Daytona Credentials and his Cars

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 12, 2008) -- Tony Stewart has visited victory lane at Daytona International Speedway 11 times. Two of those trips have been after the checkered flag dropped on the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race when Stewart won back-to-back in 2005 and 2006.

Unbelievably, those are the only two wins for Stewart in a Nationwide Series career that spans 77 starts.

That those wins came at Daytona, however, are proof of Stewart's prowess in working the draft and moving his race car into a winning position when it matters most -- something Stewart has done seven times at Daytona in the premiere NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and twice in the International Race of Champions.

His car in this year's Nationwide Series race is the No. 20 Armor All Toyota Camry prepared by Joe Gibbs Racing. And with his brightly painted No. 20 machine, Stewart will look to pick up the big check and another trophy from Daytona.

The big check could come in handy for Stewart, for a month ago he traveled to Scottsdale, Ariz., to attend the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction. Stewart quickly went from being an attendee to a participant, as he picked up a 1967 Pontiac GTO, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air and a 1950 Mercury Lead Sled.

The year before, Stewart was the winning bidder of a 1955 Chevy Nomad and a 1956 Chevy step-side custom pickup.

A win in Saturday's Nationwide Series race would certainly help in making a few payments on Stewart's ever-growing car collection, but with his sponsor being Armor All, Stewart at least gets a break on the products needed for keeping his rides in showroom condition.

His fleet of classic cars stays shiny thanks to an infinite supply of Armor All products. Stewart doesn't ever have to worry about running out of interior and exterior car care appearance products, just carpal tunnel syndrome from frequently following the advice made famous by Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid -- "Wax on, wax off."

Now that the racing season has started anew, the only thing Stewart wants to wax is the competition. When he makes his 78th career Nationwide Series start and his eighth at Daytona, Stewart sights will be set on yet another trip to victory lane.

Tony Stewart -- Driver, No. 20 Armor All NASCAR Nationwide Series yota ToCamry at Daytona

How difficult is it to win one race at Daytona, never mind two in a row?

"Restrictor plate races at Daytona are always a wild card race. You never know who's going to win. We were fortunate enough to win one and then back it up the next year. To do it back-to-back like that is something we're really proud of."

(Stewart won his two Nationwide Series races at Daytona driving for Kevin Harvick Inc. -- Ed.)

You were in contention to make it three in a row last year, but wound up eighth. What happened?

"We passed a lot of cars, so it was nice to know that we had a pretty decent car. It didn't have quite enough to win it again for the third year in a row, but the race is always an exciting one. We're going back there this year with a new sponsor in Armor All and a new series sponsor, and we'd sure like to be the ones who end up in victory lane."

In order to win a restrictor plate race, you've got to have drafting help. How do you get that help?

"I think it's more a situation of guys finding the fast cars, and you finding the guys that you know are going to go with you because they know you're quick. If they go with you, they're going to get you to the front, which is going to get them to the front. It's kind of 'help me, help you.'"

Are there certain guys you've worked with at restrictor plate races in the past that you know you're going to draft with?

"You have a list of guys that you know you're drafting with, and then there's another list of guys that you're all right with, and there's another list of guys that you don't want to be around. So you always know who the guys are you want to be with and who you'd rather not see anywhere near you."

Is there any strategy involved in running a restrictor plate race, or is it just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented?

"The strategy is making sure you've got somebody you can draft with. You have to take the opportunities as they come, but with those opportunities you have to make a very quick decision. You've got to think, 'What happens if I try this and it doesn't work? What are the ramifications going to be?' You don't have the luxury of sitting down and taking the time to analyze the situation. You've got to make a split-second decision. A lot of times it'll work, but there are times when the decision that you made doesn't work. But once you've committed yourself to doing something, there's not much you can do about it."

You picked up a few toys over the winter at Barrett-Jackson. How long have you been working on your car collection?

"I bought a '67 GTO, a '57 Chevy Bel Air and a 1950 Mercury Lead Sled, so I've got some new toys. I'm almost going to have to get a full-time (Nationwide Series) ride and a part-time Truck ride to pay for them. I'm going to have to win just about every major race we run this year to pay for them. It's fun. Collecting cars has kind of been my new hobby the last two years. Even before I went to Barrett-Jackson, I was starting a collection. I've met some really neat people out there. I'm kind of glad that that's the last thing I get to do before the season starts -- go out there and have fun by being around a bunch of car guys."

Has going to Barrett-Jackson become a staple of your off-season?

"I hope I don't buy three cars a winter, but I'm looking forward to building my collection. I've got a lot of really good advice on how to collect collector cars. It's really neat. You get the same feeling that you get when you win a race when you actually win one of those cars in the auction. The hard part is that you've got to pay for them after you win. Instead of getting a paycheck, you've got to sign them a paycheck. Even if you don't buy anything out there, just being out there is kind of like going to the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500. You're going to an event. It's not just an auction. It's a whole event that you're going to. It's a great time.

"It's neat being part of that community. It's much, much like the racing community as far as how close they all are together. You've got guys from all over the country who for that one week come out to the auction and spend time together. They're very, very knowledgeable. We spend a lot of time with Mike Joy (FOX/SPEED broadcaster) out there because Mike's kind of my advisor on what's really good and what's really not good. He's so knowledgeable on it. I've found a hobby that I really enjoy. It's just an expensive one."

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing