KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Tony Stewart knows what it’s like to stand out in a crowd. With a racing career that started at age seven, he’s been standing out for the majority of his 37-year racing career.
Stewart’s versatility and the diversity of his resume have established him as a champion many times over, from the rough-and-tumble open-wheel ranks of USAC to the wheeled bullets of IndyCar to the steel chariots of NASCAR.
His three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships make him one of only three drivers actively competing in the series with multiple titles, following Jeff Gordon with four championships and Jimmie Johnson with six. Of those drivers, Stewart is the only one to have earned a championship while simultaneously in the roles as driver and owner.
That distinction is just one example of the uniqueness that has always set Stewart apart from his peers. Exuding what can only be described as trademark casualness, Stewart walks to the beat of his own drum, all while expanding his racing portfolio and growing his legend. He’s a throwback and, for lack of a better explanation, just one-of-a-kind.
That individuality has suited Stewart’s efforts when it comes to competing at Pocono Raceway, the one-of-a-kind venue in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward, Pocono is unlike any other track in the world, and it’s a throwback to IndyCar venues of old. Its three different corners are each modeled after a different track. Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is modeled after the now-closed Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at eight degrees, is a nod to the turns at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And turn three, banked at six degrees, is modeled after the corners at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. It all adds up to a 2.5-mile triangle that is one of the more challenging tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule.
While the aptly nicknamed “Tricky Triangle” has proven troublesome for some, it has seemingly been tailor-made for Stewart, who embraced its quirky confines early in his NASCAR career and returns for his 34th career Sprint Cup start at the track on Sunday in the Windows 10 400.
After finishing sixth in his Pocono debut during his rookie campaign in 1999, Stewart scored top-10 finishes in seven of his next eight Pocono starts, including a win during the track’s spring race in 2003. Stewart returned to Pocono’s victory lane in 2009 during his inaugural season as driver and owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Complementing the pair of wins are two poles, eight top-threes, 12 top-fives, 22 top-10s and a total of 183 laps led in 33 career Sprint Cup starts. Mirroring Stewart’s measured consistency has been his reliability on the track, as he has completed 5,962 of the 6,147 laps available to him for a lap completion rate of 97 percent. On only two occasions has Stewart failed to finish a race at Pocono.
Stewart’s strength in numbers at Pocono resonates with Rush Truck Centers, the premier service solutions provider to the commercial vehicle industry and the United States’ largest network of truck and bus dealerships. It’s why the subsidiary of Rush Enterprises, Inc., will adorn the hood of Stewart’s No. 14 Chevy at Pocono. With more than 120 dealership locations in 20 states, all of which are strategically located in high-traffic areas or near major highways, Rush Truck Centers operate as one-stop vehicle centers offering an integrated approach to the needs of its customers – from sales of new and used vehicles to aftermarket parts, service and body shop operations plus financing, insurance, leasing and rental.
The one-stop vehicle center is paired with the one-of-kind driver at a one-of-a-kind track, giving Stewart the opportunity to rekindle his winning ways and once again stand out from the crowd.
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is a lap around Pocono like?
“Going into turn one, you drive it in kind of deep and then try to float the car through the corner. It’s very flat when you go down the backstretch and into the tunnel turn. Then the short chute into turn three – it’s a big, long corner and it’s important to get through that turn well because you have a straightaway that’s three-quarters of a mile long after that. You need to come off the corner quickly so that you aren’t bogged down when you start down that long straightaway. Each corner has its challenges, and each one tends to present a different set of circumstances with each lap you make.”
It seems like turn two presented a lot of problems in the spring. What is so challenging about that particular corner?
“Turn two has always been tricky. While it’s a very short corner as far as duration, it’s a big corner for being able to carry momentum. It’s the tunnel turn. It’s where the actual tunnel that goes underneath the track when you drive out is located, so it’s always been kind of funky there. But it’s one of the spots where you can make up a lot of time or you can lose a lot of time, too.”
What stands out about the track to give it the name “Tricky Triangle”?
“Well, all three corners are very different from each other. You have turn one that has a lot of banking in it for a flat track. Turn two is a very short duration and flat corner and then turn three is a very, very, long sweeping flat corner. There’s a lot going on, but every corner on the track is totally different from each other. It’s a big challenge for the crew chiefs to not only try to find a balance, but to also figure out what to do when they’re making changes. They have to figure out the corner they’re trying to fix without messing up the other two corners.”
Winning by maximizing fuel mileage has been a theme at Pocono. Your win at Pocono six years ago came in a fuel-mileage race. Can you explain what you did to make sure you had enough fuel to go the distance while many of your competitors did not?
“I’ve lost a lot more races like that than I’ve won. It was between Carl (Edwards) and me. We were the strongest two cars at the end of the race and we were able to get the track position we needed. Our guys did a great job of getting us out of the pits in the lead and that gave us the opportunity to make Carl push harder in the beginning to get the lead. Once he went into that fuel conservation mode, we had to follow suit. To be in a situation where your speed is dictated off the guy behind you and not off of what you can do, it’s a different style of racing. It’s hard. It’s just as hard, if not tougher, than trying to run 100 percent.”
What kind of marks do drivers use to get around a track like Pocono?
“I think every driver is different. At every racetrack you go to, there’s something distinct in the racetrack that you would use as a reference, but every driver kind of has his own different deal they look for. It can be something really small. It can be just a variation in the shade of the asphalt that gets used as a reference, sometimes.”
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