Michigan: Tony Stewart Racing preview

TONY STEWART Michigan Provides One Last Go-Round, and a Purpose HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (Aug. 12, 2008) -- Farewells and good-bye hugs and handshakes typically take place at the season finale in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But on the...

Michigan Provides One Last Go-Round, and a Purpose

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (Aug. 12, 2008) -- Farewells and good-bye hugs and handshakes typically take place at the season finale in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But on the grid prior to Saturday's Carfax 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, the No. 20 Old Spice Toyota will be the site of some reminiscing between Tony Stewart and Joe Gibbs Racing's Nationwide Series teams.

Stewart, winner of five Nationwide Series races this season, will make his last Nationwide Series start of the year as well as his final Nationwide Series start for Joe Gibbs Racing. The 37-year-old from Columbus, Ind., moves into the role of driver/owner next year, as Stewart-Haas Racing becomes his new home.

But as Bluto -- Jim Belushi's character from Animal House -- famously said, "It ain't over until we say it is." Stewart and the No. 20 Old Spice Racing team still have practice, qualifying and 250 racing miles around Michigan's 2-mile oval before their incredibly successful ride is over.

In his eight previous races with the No. 20 team in 2008, Stewart has scored two poles, five wins and led 501 laps. As Stewart readies for his fourth career Nationwide Series start at Michigan, he wants his final Nationwide Series race with Joe Gibbs Racing to end where it began in the season-opening race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway -- in victory lane.

Also wanting to see Stewart in victory lane is 14-year-old Emily Marsala. The cancer survivor from Cincinnati penned the design of the special paint scheme featured on the No. 20 Old Spice Toyota this weekend at Michigan. Replacing the traditional candy apple red colors of primary sponsor Old Spice on Stewart's signature No. 20 machine will be a kaleidoscope of colors to commemorate Old Spice's support of Kissimmee, Fla.-based Give Kids The World, as well as the support of Give Kids The World from Old Spice's parent company -- Procter & Gamble (P&G).

Marsala, a Give Kids The World Wish Child in 2004 who has successfully battled cancer, provided the winning car design from more than 150 sketches, all of which came from current or former Wish Children of Give Kids The World. The winning entry won Marsala and her family an all-expense paid trip to the Nationwide Series race at Michigan, where they'll meet Stewart and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team, ride with Stewart in the back of a pickup truck as he makes his parade lap around the track, all before hanging out in the pits and then watching the race from the air-conditioned comfort of a skybox suite.

P&G has supported Give Kids The World in a variety of ways for 18 years, most recently with its Tide sponsorship of Ricky Rudd and later Ricky Craven in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. While P&G continued to support Give Kids the World through its Live, Learn and Thrive program, the racing tie-in with Tide ended after the 2005 season. Due to the successful Tide program, the racing partnership is back in 2008 with a $100,000 donation on behalf of Old Spice, the Tony Stewart Foundation and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Give Kids The World provides the Wish Child and their family a weeklong vacation with everything they need at no cost. Accommodations are made at the Give Kids The World Village, a 70-acre, non-profit resort where families can stay in two-bedroom, two-bathroom villas. Also onsite is a whimsical gingerbread house restaurant, a magical castle that has a handmade, wheelchair accessible carousel, an interactive, seven-hole miniature golf course, and the world's only life-sized CANDY LAND-themed playground. The collective donation made by Old Spice, the Tony Stewart Foundation and Joe Gibbs Racing will contribute to these week-long, cost-free vacations, which also include meals in the Gingerbread House Restaurant and all of the special entertainment and "surprises" that take place during the family's visit.

Give Kids The World has welcomed over 88,000 families from all 50 states and more than 65 counties. One of those families was none other than the Gibbs family.

Three-year-old Taylor Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs Racing team president J.D. Gibbs and grandson of three-time Super Bowl-winning and Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, on Jan. 9, 2007 when he was two. Currently in remission, Taylor visited Give Kids The World in October 2007, allowing J.D. and his family to see firsthand the magical memories Give Kids The World creates for its attendees.

"For my wife Melissa, Taylor and our two other boys, we were totally blown away by the experience we had at Give Kids The World," J.D. said. "The kids didn't want to leave to go to Disney World. They wanted to stay right there in The Village at Give Kids The World.

"The greatest thing about the whole experience was that for one week, it allowed Taylor and the rest of us to live as if nothing was wrong. We all forgot about the trials and tribulations that come with fighting leukemia. That's what makes Give Kids The World so invaluable, and thanks to the impact it had on our entire family and thousands of others, we plan on partnering with them for years to come."

Obviously for Joe Gibbs Racing and everyone affiliated with the championship-winning organization, the Give Kids The World initiative on display at Michigan goes much deeper than a few coats of paint. Nonetheless, Stewart intends to make sure as many people as possible see Marsala's design, and the best way to do that is by doing what Stewart does best -- winning.

Tony Stewart -- Driver, No. 20 Old Spice NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Michigan

You have a tough guy image on and off the race track, but the car you'll be racing in the Nationwide Series race at Michigan will have a bunny rabbit on the hood, gumballs along the bottom of the car and a rainbow-esque design. What's up with that?

"The car will give me some good camouflage during the race, because with a purple, blue, yellow and red race car that has a bunny rabbit on the hood, no one will know that it's me getting ready to pass them. It was actually designed by Emily Marsala, a cancer survivor who during her treatment visited Give Kids The World down in Florida. She and her family will be at the race as our guests, as her design is on our race car to commemorate Old Spice's support of Give Kids The World. Earlier this year, Joe Gibbs Racing, Old Spice and the Tony Stewart Foundation donated $100,000 to Give Kids The World. It's my last race with the team, and I want to go out on top -- for me and for Emily and her parents."

Michigan would've marked your last Nationwide Series race of the season, but does it take on a little more meaning since it will be your last race with Dave Rogers and the No. 20 JGR team before you move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009?

"When you can win five out of eight races with an organization, that in itself, is impressive. Just to be part of a record breaking year for the organization is something that I'm really proud of. I've never won a Nationwide race at Michigan. We should've won the first two that I ran there. The first year with Dale Jr. in his car (2003), we dominated it (led 86 laps) and got caught out by weather at the end and didn't even finish in the top-10 because of rain. Ever since then, every time we go to Michigan, I feel like I've got something to prove. I feel like I have a win that I let slip through my fingers that I want to capitalize on."

The success that your crew chief, Dave Rogers, has enjoyed with you, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano this season in the Nationwide Series has allowed him to be a crew chief in demand. Before he was your crew chief in the Nationwide Series, he was your engineer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Talk about his growth as a crew chief.

"Obviously, we're proud of him and of what he's done, proud of his effort and work ethic at the shop. You're proud to be a part of his season -- and his record breaking season. It makes you proud just to be a part of it and know that you were a part of making that happen with him. It's neat how things make full circles a lot of times."

Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR Nationwide Series Spark Plugs

* Joe Gibbs Racing, with drivers Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano have dominated the Nationwide Series this year by ringing up 14 wins, six poles and leading 1,978 of the 4,179 laps possible (47.3 percent).

* Stewart has two poles (Spring Daytona and Talladega), five wins (Spring Daytona, Fontana, Talladega, Darlington and New Hampshire) and 501 laps led in eight races for Joe Gibbs Racing.

* Busch has two poles (Spring Nashville and Phoenix), five wins (Texas, Phoenix, Mexico City, Chicagoland and O'Reilly Raceway Park) and 1,075 laps led in 13 races for Joe Gibbs Racing.

* Hamlin has three wins (Richmond, Dover and Fall Daytona) and 227 laps led in six races for Joe Gibbs Racing.

* Logano has two poles (Fall Nashville and Kentucky), one win (Kentucky) and 175 laps led in eight races for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Chassis No. 2081: This chassis was built during the off-season and will make its fifth start of the season at Michigan International Speedway. Its first start came at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March, where Kyle Busch led five times for a race-high 153 laps before a broken right-front shock mount sent his car into the turn one retaining wall as Busch was leading handily. The impact knocked Busch out of contention for the win, but it did not inflict any permanent damage to Chassis No. 2081. After repairs were made, the No. 20 team brought the car back two weeks later to Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway where, again, Busch led four times for a race-high 125 laps before a spin with 62 laps remaining knocked him out of contention for the win and forced him to settle for a 16th-place result. Joe Gibbs Racing hung a new body on Chassis No. 2081 prior to its next outing in May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway where Denny Hamlin started ninth and finished second. At Nashville in June, Chassis No. 2081 carried 18-year-old phenom Joey Logano to his first career Nationwide Series pole. Logano then wheeled Chassis No. 2081 to lead twice for 64 laps before a tap from another car sent Logano spinning into the frontstretch wall and a 31st-place finish. Its most recent start came at Chicagoland Speedway with Stewart at the wheel. There, it qualified second and finished ninth.

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing