TONY STEWART - Deja vu in DFW
KANNAPOLIS, Nov. 3, 2010: Back in the fall of 2006, Tony Stewart scored dominating, back-to-back NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. In the two 500-mile races at the similarly-shaped mile-and-a-half ovals, Stewart led a total of 424 laps (146 laps at Atlanta and 278 laps at Texas) with a collective margin of victory of 1.467 seconds (1.195 seconds at Atlanta and .272 of a second at Texas).
Only eight races removed from his third Sprint Cup win at Atlanta on Labor Day weekend, Stewart returns to Texas for the third to final race of the 2010 season looking for some déjà vu.
In each of the last five seasons, the winner at Atlanta has gone on to win at Texas. In 2009, Kurt Busch won the spring race at Atlanta and the fall race at Texas. In 2008, Carl Edwards won the fall race at Atlanta and the fall race at Texas. In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won the fall race at Atlanta and the fall race at Texas. In 2006, Stewart won the fall race at Atlanta and the fall race at Texas. And in 2005, Edwards won the spring and fall races at Atlanta, and then the fall race at Texas.
History says the winner of Atlanta will win again at Texas, meaning that the smart money is on Stewart or Busch – this year’s spring winner at Atlanta. Tipping the odds in Stewart’s favor, however, are two key components:
1. Stewart won the pole for this year’s spring race at Texas and proceeded to lead five times for 74 laps before a late-race, multi-car crash relegated him to an undeserved 32nd-place finish.
2. The same No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala that carried Stewart to his 39th and most recent Sprint Cup victory on Oct. 10 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., is the same car that Stewart will pilot in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. It also happens to be the same Office Depot/Old Spice machine that performed so well for Stewart in April at Texas.
So, ante up for Stewart to double-down and add a touch of déjà vu to DFW come Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
In each of the last five seasons, a winner at Atlanta has gone on to win the fall race at Texas – a number that includes you in 2006. As the most recent race winner at Atlanta, does that give you confidence heading into this weekend’s race at Texas?
“Well, you never know. The hard part is, even if you were the guy that won the Texas race in the spring, it’s such a long gap between the spring race and the fall race that you’ve got to keep in mind our sport is a technology-driven sport. Guys make their programs better. Shock programs change. Setups change. The conditions that you have temperature-wise can be different. Just because you were good there before, or just because you were good in Atlanta, doesn’t guarantee you’ll be good at Texas the second time around. But, I guess it’s a lot better scenario of going into Texas knowing that we ran well there in the spring and that we did run well at Atlanta. That does give you a little bit of comfort knowing that you were good there in the previous times. It’s still no guarantee we’re going to be successful this time, but we at least have the comfort of knowing the last time we were there we were pretty decent – until we crashed.”
With a pole, a win, four top-fives and 10 top-10s in 17 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas, how comfortable are you there?
“I’ve always liked Texas. I’ve been there clear back in my Indy car days in ’96. The fans in Texas and the people that come to Texas Motor Speedway are really appreciative of the drivers and the teams. They’re just really passionate about their racing. They have a great promoter with Eddie Gossage out there. It’s just a fun track, it’s a fun weekend, and it’s a place that we run really, really run fast at. It’s a fast track. That makes it one on the schedule that you look forward to because you know you’re going to get to let your legs stretch out, so to speak, and run some quick lap times.”
A lot of drivers talk about turn two at Texas where it feels like the banking falls out from underneath them. Can you describe that sensation?
“It does. The entry and exit of these corners, they’re very abrupt as far as the banking. When you turn in the corner, it’s very abrupt getting in, and falls off very quickly. The reason for that, when they built Texas Motor Speedway, they intended to have the Indy cars race on the apron. That’s why the apron is so wide at Texas. The Indy cars were not originally meant to run on the banking. That’s why the banking on the entry of the corner and exit falls off so fast, so the cars could come from the straightaway from the apron and back up with a smooth transition from the bottom. It makes it a different challenge than what we have at Charlotte or Atlanta because of that. It does make it a lot more challenging to get your car set up for it. You can’t relax on the entry and you can’t relax on the exit of the corner. A lot of times it’s hard to get your car secure on the entry because you don’t have that banking to hold it. Once you get in the corner, it seems like it’s all right. Same thing happens on the exit. Turn two is the tighter of the two exits of the racetrack. You’re still trying to finish the corner there and you have to keep tugging on the steering wheel and at the same time, make sure you don’t lose the back (of the car) at the same time. It definitely falls out from under you. When it does, you have to make sure your car is tight enough to make it through that transition.”
Before you raced at Texas in a stock car, you raced there in an Indy car. What was the difference?
“The Indy car was nothing like driving a stock car. You could go anywhere on the track with the Indy car that you wanted to, and you could run wide-open while doing it. It was as easy as riding down the Interstate, whereas with a stock car, you’re not off the gas very long, but you do have to lift. With the track being so line-sensitive, it’s really important that you’re doing the same thing every lap, and making sure you’re very consistent in how you’re driving the car.”
The championship seems to have come down to three drivers – Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. You’re currently seventh in points with three races to go. How far up the standings can you climb before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway?
“We still have three races we can try to win here. That’s what I try to do every week is win, so that’s not going to change whether we have a reality of winning the championship or not. It’s still about going out and doing the best you can every race. All you can do is keep your fingers crossed that things go your way, and when the season is over, we’ll see where we’re at.”
This is your sixth year in the Chase. While the championship is out of reach, how do you feel this year’s Chase has gone for you?
“It just kind of is what it is. Obviously, the weeks that didn’t go right, I would love to be able to go back and try to make them better. But, there’s a lot of guys that have had weeks they wish they could make better. It’s just part of the sport. When you have a sport that has 43 cars and drivers in it every week, only one guy gets to go to victory lane. There’s 42 guys that didn’t accomplish their goals.
“I can’t say that I’m happy about where we’re at, but I guess there’s 31 teams and drivers that wish they even had a chance to race for the championship and were in the Chase. I feel fortunate that we’re there. We accomplished that side of the goal. We probably aren’t going to have the reality of accomplishing the second side of it, and that’s trying to win a championship this year.”