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Stewart boasts impressive road-course résumé

8/12/2005

Tony Stewart doesn't appear to need much help right now, having
won four of his last six NASCAR Nextel Cup starts, riding a string
of seven straight top-10 finishes and sitting in first place in the
season standings.

Coming off an emotional win last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor
Speedway, a track at which he has coveted victory since his career
began, Stewart is riding high.

No reason Watkins Glen International, the next track on the schedule, should bring him down.

The Glen offers a different challenge since it is one of only
two road courses on the Cup schedule. But Stewart doesn't mind. In
fact, he relishes racing on the road courses, where he has won four
of 13 starts, including the last two in a row -- last year at the
Glen and earlier this year at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Overall, Stewart has eight top-10 finishes on the road courses.

Stewart shrugs off talk about an advantage, though.

"It's just like anyplace else," he said of the Glen. "If you
get the combination right, you can go out and win. If you miss
something and you're a little bit off, you're not going to win.

"The two races we won [at Watkins Glen], we had a very, very
good race car that drove well all day. In between those races there
was a year where our car didn't drive real well and we didn't
win," added Stewart, who finished 11th there in 2003.

Stewart doesn't credit his wins at the Glen to any kind of
superior driving skill.

"Watkins Glen seems to be more in the crew's hands and the
engine builder's hands," he said. "Obviously, there's still a job
that I need to do in the race car, but I'm relying on the equipment
and the crew a lot more at Watkins Glen."

But that doesn't mean he isn't pleased to race there. He planned
to race three times over the weekend, running in Friday's sports
car event, Saturday's Busch Series race and Sunday's featured Cup
race.

"I always look forward to the road courses just because it's a
weekend of something different from what we've done the past five
or 10 weekends," Stewart said. "We go to a road course just like
we do any track: We go there to win."

Busy, busy
With only two races a year on road courses, it's
quite a change for drivers who are best known for making left
turns.

"There's a lot more to do on road courses," said Kevin
Harvick, who has three top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen in four
starts. "You have to shift, stop, shift, gas it and slide."

He said braking is a much bigger part of racing on road circuits
than on ovals, particularly at a place like the Glen, a very fast
2.45-mile, 11-turn course.

"The brakes are tortured because you are carrying so much speed
down off the straightaways into the corners," Harvick said.
"Going into turn one, it's like a 90-degree corner and you are
hauling the mail. Down the back straightaway, you go into the
innerloop and pretty much have to stop right there.

"The hardest handling characteristic is to get your car to get
forward bite up off the corner because you are coming off a low
gear and there are a lot of hills and off-camber corners. You have
to try and hook your car up the best you can. It's kind of like
trying to find a balance between taking care of your stuff and
driving the heck out of it. It's definitely different from our
weekly routine."

Ad vantage
Companies that sponsor Nextel Cup teams are thinking
beyond paint and decals when it comes to getting their messages
across.

Tony Stewart's primary sponsor, The Home Depot, is taking a step
toward doing just that.

After Stewart began celebrating victories this summer by
climbing fences, the company began placing ads entitled "Hey,
Tony, We Have Ladders."

Now, in the wake of Stewart's big win last Sunday in the
Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, Home Depot is putting out coupons
for a 10 percent discount on bricks, wall blocks and pavers, good
through Sunday. This ad campaign is headlined: "Finally, Someone
Who Loves Bricks As Much As We Do."

The famed track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, once
completely covered with red bricks, now has one three-foot-wide
strip of original bricks marking the start-finish line. It is a
tradition for NASCAR winners and their teams to kiss the bricks.

Off key
Kurt Busch one-upped fellow NASCAR Nextel Cup champion
Jeff Gordon with his appearance earlier this week at Wrigley Field.

In May, Gordon was booed by Cubs fans when he called the old
ballpark on the north side of Chicago "Wrigley Stadium" and
butchered a rendition of "Take me out to the ballgame,"
forgetting the words as he led the singing during the
seventh-inning stretch.

Busch, an avowed Cubs fan, had the honor of throwing out the
first ball and leading the singing during a visit to Wrigley last
Tuesday.

The reigning Cup champion wore a mesh Cubs jersey with a T-shirt
underneath that read in big letters "Real Cubs Fan" with smaller
letters underneath stating "I know the words."

His pregame pitch was a little high, but reached the plate, and
his singing was a little off key, but Busch got through it without
messing up a single word, drawing a big cheer from the crowd.

Stat of the week
Mark Martin has 12 top-fives, including three
victories, and 15 top-10s in 17 starts on the road course at
Watkins Glen International. More impressive, Martin has completed
1,487 of a possible 1,491 laps. His average finish at the Glen is
sixth.