KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Tony Stewart has spent the majority of his life behind the wheel of a racecar and has competed in racing’s biggest and most prestigious events, from the Copper World Classic to the Indianapolis 500 to the Daytona 500. Having performed in such storied races, Stewart can appreciate the task at hand for the athletes this weekend who will vie for one of the most prestigious titles in all of sports – Masters Champion.
Golf’s elite take to the lush greens of Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club where they will demonstrate precision, strength and mental dexterity – qualities shared by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers such as Stewart, who will compete nearly a thousand miles to the west at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. While Stewart’s irons consist of the parts and pieces that make up his No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), he’ll still employ the grip-it-and-rip-it methodology of his golfing counterparts who carry their irons in a bag.
Stewart gripped the wheel and ripped off the fastest lap ever recorded in a stock car at a 1.5-mile oval last November at Texas when he drove his No. 14 Chevrolet to record lap of 26.985 seconds at 200.111 mph. It was yet another instance of Stewart ripping around Texas’ confines, for the three-time Sprint Cup champion has scored two poles and earned two wins in his 25 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas.
With 801 laps led at Texas – third-best among active Sprint Cup drivers – Stewart flat-out hauls at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s appropriate that for this weekend’s Duck Commander 500, Stewart’s Chevrolet is a 200 mph tribute to the trucking industry.
Two of his primary sponsors – Rush Truck Centers and ExxonMobil – have teamed up to salute America’s truck drivers. The two Texas-based companies – Rush Truck Centers’ home is San Antonio and ExxonMobil’s campus is in Houston – augment one another well.
A subsidiary of Rush Enterprises, Inc., Rush Truck Centers is the premier service solutions provider to the commercial vehicle industry and the United States’ largest network of truck and bus dealerships, representing industry-leading brands. With more than 100 vehicle centers strategically located in high-traffic areas or near major highways, Rush Truck Centers operate as one-stop centers offering an integrated approach to the needs of its customers.
Mobil Delvac 1 keeps the trucks that roll off Rush Truck Centers’ lots moving. The synthetic, heavy-duty diesel engine oil brand is on Stewart’s Chevy this weekend at Texas because it coincides with the latest installment of Mobil Delvac’s “Behind the Wheel” online video series, which honors the dedicated men and women who drive across America delivering our goods and services. In the current episode, “Trucking #14,” fans are introduced to the No. 14 team’s hauler driver Ken Gober, who captains the truck from coast to coast, delivering all the necessary equipment and supplies for each race weekend. Rush Truck Centers provided the Peterbilt rig to SHR while ExxonMobil provides Mobil Delvac 1, ensuring the truck operates at optimum performance.
“Many of our trucking customers are passionate fans of Stewart-Haas Racing and Tony Stewart,” said W. M. “Rusty” Rush, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Rush Enterprises, Inc. “We’re proud to join Stewart-Haas Racing to celebrate the important work truckers do every day.”
Stewart’s star has shone brightly in the Lone Star State, and he trucks into Texas looking to brighten his 2015 season. With an average finish of 12.9 in 25 Sprint Cup starts – a number that includes six top-fives and 13 top-10s – Texas has proven to be a dependable venue for Stewart. And for Rush Truck Centers and Mobil Delvac 1, partners who hang their hats on dependability, the stars are aligned for a strong run by Stewart Saturday night at Texas.
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How special is the paint scheme you’re running this weekend that pays tribute to America’s truck drivers?
“Oftentimes, I don’t think people realize how critical truck drivers are to our everyday lives. Without them, America’s economy would come to a standstill. Without Gober (No. 14 truck driver), I wouldn’t have my Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Chevy to drive this weekend. So, it feels good to shine the spotlight on them and the great driving they do.”
Texas is a track where you’ve been consistently good. What makes you so comfortable there?
“You have to be comfortable or you’re not going to go fast. The more comfortable I am, the faster we go. This track, the grooves have moved around, especially in the last couple of years. We’ve seen the track get wider and it’s made it to where you can move around on the racetrack and where you can run the top side or the bottom side. It’s nice from a driver’s perspective to be able to have that flexibility behind the steering wheel, knowing that if your car’s not driving exactly the way you want it to, you can move around the racetrack and find a spot the car likes better.”
You’ve logged a lot of laps at Texas. How has the track developed since those early years?
“Anytime you put more seasons on a racetrack, the better it gets because it seems like the pavement wears out on the bottom and it makes it to where you can run the top and be fast, and you can run the bottom and be fast. It makes the whole racetrack, speed-wise, about the same, versus when they pave a racetrack and the only groove is right on the bottom. The fastest way is the shortest way because it all has the same amount of grip, so the shorter distance is faster. Every year we come here, I think the racing just gets better and better, as far as being able to move around on the racetrack and guys not having to just follow each other and get stuck behind each other. You can actually pass. You can race. You can get away from guys if your car’s fast.”
In your last 20 races at Texas, you’ve earned a top-five rating in several loop data statistics including driver rating, average running position and laps led, to name a few. How have you been able to adapt to Texas’ layout?
“I’ve found that you can pass anywhere, really. If you get a guy who misses the bottom of the corner and he bobbles, you can get around him. But even if someone doesn’t make a mistake and you’ve got a little better car than they do, the groove has moved up enough over the years to where the track’s a little wider, so you have more room to get a run on a guy. But, as the tires wear out and grip goes away, drivers will make mistakes and a car’s handling will become more important. And, when a guy makes a mistake, you need to be there to capitalize on it. You can really pass anywhere as long as the right opportunity comes up.”
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). 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.”
- Krista K. Massey
Former Group Vice President, Director of Sponsorships and Event Marketing
SunTrust Banks, Inc.