STEWART RACES TO HISTORIC DAILY DOUBLE AT COPPER WORLD CLASSIC INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 2, 1998 - There's no doubt that defending Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart will have plenty of confidence entering the Phoenix 200 on March...
STEWART RACES TO HISTORIC DAILY DOUBLE AT COPPER WORLD CLASSIC
INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 2, 1998 - There's no doubt that defending Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart will have plenty of confidence entering the Phoenix 200 on March 22 at Phoenix International Raceway.
After all, Stewart only needs to win one race to achieve his goal that day. That might seem like a snap after achieving a historic double victory on the 1-mile oval Feb. 1 during the Skoal Bandit Racing Copper World Classic.
Stewart won the USAC Silver Crown and midget races during the four-division event, becoming the first driver in the event's 21-year history to win two divisions in one day. Stewart also finished second in the supermodified main, his first-ever race in that division. The NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour race was the only division in which he didn't compete.
"I'm wore out," Stewart said. "What a long day. Running a stock car definitely would have been pushing it.
"When you can have a day like today, you have to be pretty happy. They are few and far between."
But they're becoming more and more common for Stewart.
His most impressive victory came in the Silver Crown main. Stewart was forced to qualify for the 50-lap event through the consolation race Jan. 31, as he had only one qualifying lap due to a penalty for qualifying out of turn. Stewart earned the 25th of 30 starting spots in the main after winning his consi.
Stewart wasted little time moving toward the front of the field in the main, showing the skills in traffic that also helped him win the Pep Boys IRL season-opening Indy 200 on Jan. 24 at Walt Disney World Speedway. Stewart climbed to 15th after four laps and eighth after eight laps. He passed IRL rookie Brian Tyler for second on Lap 25 and completed his charge to the front by passing polesitter Dave Steele for the lead on Lap 27. Stewart never trailed thereafter, and Tyler finished second.
"I wasn't surprised at how quick the car was, but I was surprised about how quickly we made up ground," Stewart said. "You have time with a 50-lap race, and we never gave up."
Stewart didn't need much time to establish his dominance in the midget main. He started from the pole and led 24 of 25 laps for his second consecutive Copper World midget victory. Tyler finished 23rd.
In the 25-lap supermodified feature, Stewart led for the first 14 laps but was passed for the lead by eventual winner Troy Regier. Stewart finished second by nearly a straightaway, plagued by handling problems while racing the unique supermodifieds for the first time.
"The supermod is a much different experience," Stewart said. "It's a lot quicker than I expected it to be. It's a little bit like an Indy car but definitely takes some time to get used to.
"It's fun to come out racing here. Other people like to play golf for a hobby. I just get ticked off when I play golf. I'd rather be racing."
Stewart wasn't the only IRL standout to drive in all three open-wheel divisions. 1996-97 IRL runner-up Davey Hamilton finished fifth in the Silver Crown race, 11th in the midget main and 14th in the supermodified main. Hamilton entered the Southwest Tour division but failed to qualify for the main.
PHOENIX 200 NOTEBOOK
Testing, testing: Pep Boys IRL drivers and teams will prepare for the Phoenix 200 during the annual "Test in the West" test session Feb. 25-27 at Phoenix International Raceway. A media day will take place Feb. 26 at the track, with drivers available for interviews. *** Phoenix 200 tickets: Tickets for the Phoenix 200 are available by calling Phoenix International Raceway at (602) 252-2227.