Stewart and Addington discuss strategy - NASCAR photoEnlarge Photo
As NASCAR prepares to go to Richmond International Raceway this weekend for the Capital City 400 Sprint Cup Series race on the .75-mile oval, it might be wise for those who have access to betting parlors to place their wagers on reigning and 3-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Office Depot Chevrolet.
Owning three victories at this track (September 1999, May 2001 and May 2002), Stewart also has nine top-five and 17 top-10 results that give him an average finish of 10.9 in 26 career Sprint Cup starts. He's led a total 817 laps around the circuit for a lap completion rate of 98.3 percent. Stewart also has two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins on the Richmond oval.
While drivers always say that this or that circuit is one of their favorites, Stewart declares that Richmond is "The favorite track of mine on the circuit. I've just always thought it's the perfect-sized track for a Cup race." While he likes the other two short ovals where NASCAR competes, Bristol and Martinsville, "It just seems like that extra quarter-mile and that three-quarter-mile shape, and how wide the groove gets allows for good racing."
With several lines of racing, albeit on a small oval, Stewart finds "You have to race ourselves and race the racetrack versus racing each other a lot of times. You do have to race each other, obviously, but there a lot of times during the race when you have the flexibility to move around on the racetrack and try to find a spot your car likes better than somewhere else. A lot of times on a short track you don't have that flexibility," he explained.
For this Saturday night race, Stewart is looking to get the balance right. "With the two ends of the track being different like they are at Richmond, it seems like you're always fighting something, but that's what always makes the racing good, too. You never really get anybody who gets their car perfect - even the guy that gets the lead still isn't happy with his car," Stewart revealed.
It was at Richmond last September, the final race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup began, that Stewart found his mojo, finishing seventh. It will be 230 days since the last NASCAR visit to this track but what a big 230 days it's been for Tony Stewart! He made the Chase in 10th place and then won the first two races of that playoff, eventually compiling five victories in the 10-race format to earn the series championship by a tie-breaker - on wins - over Carl Edwards.
In fact, Stewart has won seven of the 18 races conducted since the checkered flag flew last September in Richmond - winning two more this year (Las Vegas and California) as well as winning open wheel races including the Midget Rumble in Fort Wayne, IN on December 31, the All-Star Circuit of Champions 410 Winged Sprint Car contest on February 11 in Sylvania, GA and a 25-lap feature last Saturday night at Bennington, NE in the American Sprint Car Series midwest region.
To rack up his fourth Richmond NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, Tony Stewart will have to beat 42 other drivers that consider the short oval their own personal territory. Can he do it? Tony Stewart's got the resources with his team led by crew chief Steve Addington and team manager Greg Zippadelli; his contentment is obvious.