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Tony Stewart to Make NASCAR BGN Debut at IRP

17 July 1997


Tony Stewart will make his debut in a Joe Gibbs-owned NASCAR Busch
Grand National car at Indianapolis Raceway Park at the Friday, August
1, Kroger NASCAR 200.  In addition, he will compete in the DuPont 100
USAC Silver Crown Series race at IRP on July 30, driving one of two
cars owned by A.J. Foyt.  The other Foyt car will be piloted by Davey
Hamilton, one of Stewart's competitors in the Indy Racing League.

Stewart will drive a 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix at IRP and five other BGN
events in 1997.  The car sponsor has not yet been announced.  Stewart
said IRP is a good track to begin his Busch Grand National career with
the Gibbs team.  "IRP has always held a special place in my heart, and
I can't think of a better place to debut with Joe Gibbs," he said.
"This track is very familiar to me, so it's not like I'll be starting
out with a new team at a new track.  It'll eliminate some variables
for me that a lot of other new Busch Series drivers have to deal

Some of Stewart's most impressive racing triumphs have taken place at
IRP in USAC Midgets, Sprints and Silver Crown cars.  As of press time,
he has a total of ten wins at the .686-mile oval.

Stewart said that he was a bit apprehensive about the move to stock
cars, but couldn't resist the golden opportunity awaiting him with Joe
Gibbs Racing.  "For Joe and Bobby Labonte to have enough trust in me
to run the car really makes me feel good," said Stewart.  "There's a
lot of depth in that team -- Joe's a really good leader and Bobby's a
good coach and teacher, so it's nice to have that kind of
combination."  Labonte currently drives the Interstate Batteries
Pontiac for Gibbs in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Kristi Oldham, Stewart's business manager, said he plans to run a full
Indy Racing League schedule in 1998, plus all the BGN races that do
not conflict with IRL events.  Stewart will test a Winston Cup car as

According to Gibbs, Stewart was the only choice for a driver for a new
car.  "We knew that we were not going to go to a two-car team unless
we got the right driver, and Tony was the guy at the top of everyone's
list," he said.  "We're looking forward to Tony's debut at IRP -- he
really wants to do well and we're preparing for it as carefully as
possible so that can happen."

Stewart tested the new car for two days at IRP, July 14 and 15.  He
ran a lap at 22.42 seconds -- almost two tenths of a second quicker
than Randy LaJoie's 22.601-second pole position qualifying mark at the
1996 Kroger NASCAR 200.  Stewart is not taking anything for granted
when it comes to making the race, however.  "The big challenge is
getting in the show here," he said.  "The 36 guys who competed in the
Kroger NASCAR 200 last year were within three tenths of a second of
one another; that's tighter than normally the top six guys in a USAC
midget show."