Tony Stewart Racing Has Left the Building...Finally After Extended Break in Racing Action, Tony Stewart Racing's Jones and Hines Look Forward to USAC Sprint Doubleheader INDIANAPOLIS (April 18, 2007) -- The waterworks that Mother Nature ...
Tony Stewart Racing Has Left the Building...Finally
After Extended Break in Racing Action, Tony Stewart Racing's Jones and Hines Look Forward to USAC Sprint Doubleheader
INDIANAPOLIS (April 18, 2007) -- The waterworks that Mother Nature has imposed upon the competitors of the USAC National Sprint Car Series have seemingly come to an end as the series gears up for a season-opening doubleheader at Indiana's Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday (April 21) and Winchester Speedway on Sunday (April 22).
For Tony Stewart Racing's (TSR) Levi Jones and Tracy Hines, this weekend's events couldn't come soon enough.
Entering Saturday's USAC National Sprint Car Series opener at Lawrenceburg Speedway, Jones is hoping the luck of the nearby riverboat casinos will rub off -- not that he's needed much luck at the facility in the past. In 2006, he earned a respectable ninth-place finish on April 22 and later won the opening night of the Lawrenceburg Fall Classic Sprint Nationals on September 19.
Jones has also faired well just up the road at Winchester Speedway. In the past two seasons, he earned an impressive fourth-place finish on the high-banked asphalt half-mile in 2005. He followed that run with a solid fifth-place finish at the facility in 2006 and will seek his first podium finish on Sunday.
Hines will return to Lawrenceburg Speedway for the first time in more than three years on Saturday. In his last USAC National Sprint Car Series appearance at Lawrenceburg on July 24, 2003, Hines earned a sixth-place finish despite a wild frontstretch flip. That would be Hines' last outing at Lawrenceburg as his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series commitment prevented him from competing at the facility over the next three years.
Winchester Speedway has been much kinder to Hines. He earned a sixth-place finish in 2005 and finished fourth last year in the early season event. This Sunday's race will also mark Hines' first race behind the wheel of the No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/BEAST entry.
Quotes from Levi Jones, driver of the No. 20 TSR/Chevrolet/Maxim -- USAC National Sprint Car Series Dirt Car
No. 20 TSR/Chevrolet/BEAST -- USAC National Sprint Car Series Pavement Car:
While you only raced at Lawrenceburg Speedway with the USAC National Sprint Car Series one time in 2006, you won a weekly show at the facility late last season. With the adjustments that have been made to the track's configuration, what are you expecting to see this weekend?
"The track and the way you approach it has changed quite a bit in the past few years. The shortest and fastest way around the place is on the bottom. Last year when we raced there, the tires that line the inside of the track were pushed down pretty far. But it's similar to a lot of other Indiana tracks in that toward the end of the race, you know the best place to be is going to be on the bottom. The part of racing at Lawrenceburg that I really enjoy is the fact that, in the early part of the season, it's normally rough with a lot of ruts. To me, that's a lot of fun. With all of the rain that we've had lately and the moisture the air (at Lawrenceburg) carries because of its location on the river, I hope that the place is rough. The fans love that kind of racing and so do I. Hopefully, it will be a good show."
With so many recent delays in the racing schedule due to weather, does the USAC National Sprint Car Series doubleheader force you to think about coming away from the weekend with the series points lead?
"To be honest, this early in the season we're not points racing. When I won the sprint car title in 2005, I finished dead last in the first event of the season. I proved to myself that having a bad start doesn't have to make or break you. It's the entire season as a whole that you have to worry about. Ideally, we'd like to win both races for Chevrolet and come away from the weekend ranked first and second in the points. Realistically, we're going after the wins on both days and will worry about the points as the year sorts itself out. It's a long season and this is just the beginning of it."
Winchester Speedway is a very fast, very intimidating race track. Do you remember what went through your mind as you took your first laps at speed around the facility in a sprint car?
"I remember asking myself if I could really do this. It was that intimidating. I was running my Dad's car and the place and the speed really made me think. After I settled in and got a few laps around the place, that feeling went away. I still think that it's impossible to have too much seat time around Winchester. But I am much more confident about the track today as I know what to expect. It's actually become a pretty fun place to race."
The No. 20 TSR/Chevrolet/BEAST team tested at Winchester Speedway on Monday (April 16). Were you able to learn anything that will work to your benefit this Sunday?
"The starts at Winchester can get pretty hairy. You're running such a high gear that once you're up to speed you're really just hammer down. We worked on our starts on Monday and really ran through a lot of scenarios which I think will help should a situation that calls for evasive action arise. You hope at the start that everyone's engine takes off as it should, but they're all different and a stutter can really throw a wrench into the first lap. It can also get pretty narrow off of (turn) four when you come down to take the green flag, especially with all of the rookies that we're going to have in the field this weekend. It will definitely be interesting to see how the first few laps and the feature event shake out."
Quotes from Tracy Hines, driver of the No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/Maxim -- USAC National Sprint Car Series Dirt Car
No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/BEAST -- USAC National Sprint Car Series Pavement Car:
With more than two years since your last appearance at Lawrenceburg Speedway, are you looking forward to returning to the facility and getting an opportunity to compete on the track since changes have been implemented?
"Lawrenceburg has always been a good place for racing. It's just rougher than I'd like on some nights. I've not had an opportunity to compete there since they made the changes. But from the preliminary reports I've gotten, they've done a great job with it in terms of smoothing the ruts out and that will be a great plus for us. In the past, the track has been a bit too rough and the one groove that usually surfaces would tend to go away in the late stages of the race. With everything other drivers have told me, I think it's going to be a great night of racing and I'm looking forward to our first opportunity to put Chevrolet in victory lane."
This early in the season, how much focus do you place on the point standings? Will these first two events be about points racing or more about trying to establish a rhythm?
"I don't really think about the points until the middle part of the season. At the beginning of the year, the point positions are always stacked too close together. They don't really give us enough points so ranking isn't much of an issue. As you enter the halfway part of the season, that's when your focus should turn to the point standings. The spread is starting to take shape by that point and you can really work on scenarios and strategies. This weekend, we plan to focus on running as well as possible and learning our chassis. If we figure out all of the variables early in the year, the rest of the season will fall into place."
You've had a great deal of success at Winchester Speedway over the years, even in the early part of your career. What do you remember about your first event at the facility?
"The first time I ever competed at Winchester, I had landed a last minute ride and we showed up without any practice of any kind. I remember being pretty comfortable in my first qualifying run and ended up second or third quick. We went on to finish second in the feature event and I've really been pretty good at the track since that day. I think that the most important things any driver can do when they race at Winchester is to really work on the comfort level of the car and to remember that it's not a short track. You have to have different setups and a different mentality in order to run well at Winchester. I definitely respect the speed of the place. It's a great race track for both us and the fans."
The No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/BEAST team tested at Winchester Speedway earlier this week. In terms of preparedness for this Sunday's event, are you where you thought you'd be?
"The TSR team has been working very hard in recent weeks to prepare for our first sprint car races. We thought we'd be pretty good right off the truck in testing and that ended up being the case. We only used one set of tires in testing. We rolled off with a new set and were pretty quick. As the day went on, we got to the point where we had about 30 laps left on the tires and were really just as quick at that point. We know we're going to be fast with new tires and I think that Levi and I both will be very good throughout the entire 30 laps."