Loudon: Tony Stewart preview

TONY STEWART Stewart + Rogers Experience at New Hampshire HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (June 25, 2008) -- Prior to this season, there were only four tracks where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series compete where Tony Stewart had...

TONY STEWART
Stewart + Rogers Experience at New Hampshire

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (June 25, 2008) -- Prior to this season, there were only four tracks where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series compete where Tony Stewart had yet to win. Thanks to crew chief and New England native Dave Rogers, that number has been cut to just one.

Rogers is the crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 Old Spice team in the Nationwide Series, winner of seven races this season with four different drivers. Stewart has accounted for four of those wins, with his victories at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Darlington (S.C.) Raceway being the first for him at each of those tracks. The only track that remains on Stewart's to-do list is Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Rogers' other wins have come via Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

But Rogers' track record with Stewart transcends this year's dominance. While he was the man who wrenched wins for Busch at Mexico City, Hamlin at Richmond (Va.) and Logano at Kentucky, Rogers' tenure with Stewart goes back to 1999 when the two joined the elite Sprint Cup ranks as part of Joe Gibbs Racing's second team to the original No. 18 Interstate Batteries team.

Stewart was the driver and Rogers was the engineer, and together with crew chief Greg Zipadelli -- also in his rookie season as a Sprint Cup crew chief -- the trio won three races, finished fourth in the championship and took home the rookie of the year award. More wins would follow, and it would lead to a championship season in 2002.

Under the tutelage of Zipadelli and backed by the driving prowess of Stewart, Rogers advanced within Joe Gibbs Racing to the role of crew chief when the championship-winning organization launched a third Sprint Cup team in 2005. With Jason Leffler as the driver, the team struggled to find the necessary chemistry needed to be competitive, and Rogers found himself back in the engineering department before season's end.

But what felt like a setback then appears to have been a catapult now, for Rogers is at the top of his game. The 34-year-old from Marshfield, Vt., has his team leading the Nationwide Series owner standings by 121 points over the second-place team of Richard Childress Racing, and he comes into New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon with Stewart back behind the wheel.

In their last two races together, the Stewart/Rogers combo has proven unstoppable, as they won Talladega and Darlington. Stewart hasn't competed in the Nationwide Series since, but after a five-race hiatus, Stewart returns to the Nationwide Series this weekend at New Hampshire.

In two previous Nationwide Series races at New Hampshire, Stewart has finished second and fourth, respectively, with the runner-up effort coming in Stewart's first NASCAR race at New Hampshire in 1998, and his fourth-place result coming in last year's Camping World 200.

With two Sprint Cup wins at New Hampshire -- one of which was scored with Rogers as his engineer in 2000 -- Stewart aims to make it five Nationwide Series wins this season and the eighth for Rogers. That's something Rogers' friends and family would welcome, particularly Davis C. Rogers, Dave's father, who first made the trip to New Hampshire with his son when the Nationwide Series made its first visit to the 1.058-mile oval in 1990.

That Old Spice is on board the No. 20 machine is even more appropriate, for the brand's tagline of "Experience is Everything" certainly suits the rapport forged by Stewart and Rogers in their 10 years together.

Tony Stewart -- Driver, No. 20 Old Spice NASCAR Nationwide Series yota ToCamry at New Hampshire

Before becoming a crew chief in the Nationwide Series, Dave Rogers was your engineer on the No. 20 team in the Sprint Cup Series from 1999 through 2004. Can you talk about his evolution from championship-winning engineer -- as he was a part of your first Sprint Cup Series championship in 2002 -- to race-winning crew chief?

"It's obviously been a huge step for him. When things go wrong, they go to the crew chief first. He's the one who gets all the blame if things go wrong, and if they go right, he gets the credit too. But there's a lot of pressure in going from being an engineer to a crew chief. It's a huge step. Dave was a huge asset to a lot of our success on the Cup side. In working with Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief of the No. 20 team in the Sprint Cup Series), he paid his dues and learned enough to be a great crew chief. He's proven he's a great crew chief in the Nationwide Series. It's cool to be back working with him again and his group of guys. Working with him this year compared to the couple of races I worked with him in past seasons in the Nationwide Series where he was my crew chief, you can just hear how much more confidence he has. He's a very confident crew chief, and as a driver, that's what you want."

Even though you're only running a nine-race Nationwide Series schedule, you put the same kind of effort into it as you do your full-time ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, correct?

"When I was running for KHI (Kevin Harvick Inc.), I wanted to win every time for those guys because they worked so hard to give me a good race car. It's no different here. You want to win every time you go out, especially when you know how hard these guys work. For us as drivers, we show up, we get in 'em, we run Friday and Saturday and we get out and we still have our Cup race on Sunday. Dave and the guys on the Old Spice Team -- they all work just as hard on the Nationwide cars as all three of our teams work on the Cup side. You want to be successful with them because of that. You know how hard they work. You know how much they appreciate when you come in and give them 100 percent. And the reward for that is hopefully more wins throughout the season."

Dave Rogers -- Crew Chief, No. 20 Old Spice NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at New Hampshire

As a native New Englander, New Hampshire has always been a homecoming race for you, but considering the success you've enjoyed so far this year, how much sweeter will this year's trip to New Hampshire be?

"We're really looking forward to going to Loudon with Tony Stewart in the car and Old Spice on the hood. We've been pretty fast with that combination this year. We've had some really good cars at Loudon in the past, but we've not been able to seal the deal quite yet. I've got a lot of really good friends up there and a lot of family in the stands, and I'd like to be able to win in front of them, but we know we'll go up there and have fun no matter what happens."

Was there anyone back home in Marshfield, Vt., who helped you become who you are today?

"I've been blessed enough to be surrounded by great people my whole life. I look up to my Dad more than anybody. He wasn't really big into racing, but I see a lot of his personality in me. He taught me to never quit or give up, to never be satisfied with second. That motivates me. He'll be at the race and that will be a lot of fun.

"I had some great teachers at Twinfield High School -- some great people that just really taught me and my classmates about what the books say, but also how to be a respectful person. I had some really great leadership from up that way and hopefully they'll be watching."

When was your first trip to New Hampshire? Was it as a fan?

"I was there for the inaugural Nationwide Series race (in 1990). The first four years that the Nationwide Series raced at New Hampshire, we were there. I was also there for the inaugural Cup Series race at the track. The one race I remember like it was yesterday was when Joe Nemechek and Dale Earnhardt Sr., raced door-to-door for the last few laps and put on a great show for the fans. I don't remember exactly what year that was (1992) but it was a long time ago."

When was your first trip to New Hampshire as someone working on a NASCAR team?

"The 1999 Cup Series race with The Home Depot car was my first race back to Loudon as part of a team. It was Tony's (Stewart) first cup race there as well. That was the first time I worked on a car as part of a team at Loudon."

You spent 1999-2004 as an engineer with Greg Zipadelli, Stewart and the No. 20 team in Sprint Cup. How important was that time in preparing you for the success you're enjoying today?

"It's everything. Zippy was definitely my mentor. I got the engineering degree but he tried to teach me the street smarts. I owe a lot to Zip. He really took me under his wing and took the time to explain things. He really helped me, especially where theory meets reality. You really can't give that enough credit."

You won a race at New Hampshire as an engineer with the No. 20 Sprint Cup team in 2000. What would a win at New Hampshire mean in your current role as crew chief for the No. 20 Old Spice Team in the Nationwide Series?

"We've had some spectacular runs this year. We won at Darlington (S.C.) which was the first time for Tony and a win he really, really wanted. Denny (Hamlin) won at Richmond, which is his home track. It would be really special to go and win at my home track. You have some many friends and family that you don't get to see that often, and to win in front of them would be huge."

Will your experience working with Stewart in the older-generation Cup car help in getting him dialed into the No. 20 Old Spice Nationwide Series car?

"Not at all. The Cup cars have always had more power and this half-inch tapered spacer (between the intake manifold and the carburetor) has really thrown a curve into our set-ups. For the most part, we seem to hit it, but even at Milwaukee we struggled a little bit trying to figure out how to get these things to turn without the horsepower to spin the rear wheels. It's quite a bit different. It doesn't help you much at all."

-credit: jgr

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing