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Stewart likes Gen-6 car
Says it could break track record at Martinsville
Tony Stewart addresses media members on Wednesday in the Club 47 suite at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Thursday, March 21, 2013
By MARK THOMPSON - Bulletin Sports Editor
In Tony Stewart’s eyes, there’s no comparison between NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow (COT) and the new Generation-6 (Gen-6) cars introduced on the Sprint Cup Series this season.
The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion will take the latter every time.
“They’ve done a really good job with this Gen-6 car doing their homework,” Stewart said Wednesday during a stop at Martinsville Speedway. “It’s come out of the box and been a car that’s been very well balanced right off the bat and has a lot of control.”
And its fast, or at least a little faster than the Car of Tomorrow. The Gen-6 car dropped 160 pounds on the old model and has flashed some fast speeds this season.
Kyle Busch set a track record at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday during qualifying for the Food City 500 Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday in Bristol, Tenn., breaking Ryan Newman’s 10-year-old record.
Stewart wouldn’t be surprised if the same record falls at Martinsville during qualifying for the STP Gas Booster 500 on April 7.
“I think it’s the new car, and I think there’s a great possibility it will happen here,” Stewart said. “Even though it’s not an aero-track, aerodynamics will help on qualifying and having less weight this year in the cars will definitely make them faster as well.”
Stewart’s lone complaint about the car was that he thinks the Gen-6 car helps bridge the gap in talent between drivers due to the downforce it creates.
“The new car has a lot more downforce, which it was designed that way,” Stewart said. “The good thing is, I don’t think by ourselves anybody has gone anywhere yet and said, ‘Man this car doesn’t drive well,’ and that’s something that we didn’t have the luxury of saying when the COT car came out. Even the guys that were running well didn’t like the way their cars drove.”
Stewart concerned, not panicking about team’s woes
Tony Stewart isn’t panicking, even though neither he nor the two other drivers in Stewart-Haas Racing — Danica Patrick and Ryan Newman — crack the top 20 in the Sprint Cup Series points standings.
“Are you concerned when you go home and your wife’s mad at you? Do you panic?” Stewart asked. “Same thing. Literally. There’s a difference between panic and concern. If you’re not concerned, you’re not doing your job, but if you panic, you have as much opportunity to move backward as you do forward.”
Stewart said his team has catching up to do with the new Gen-6 car, but expects his team to do just that as it accumulates more experience with the car.
After all, only four races have been run with the new car.
“I think the teams that are further behind have a lot more to gain each week than the teams that are closer right off the bat,” Stewart said.
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Fontana, Calif. on Sunday for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
Stewart won their last season and hopes the race will kick-start his year.
“I hope so,” he said. “The good thing is I know what my car needs to feel like to have a good day on Sunday. I know what it needs to feel like on Saturday to do that. ... At least going into it, we’re excited about it because it’s a track that we won at last year.” And if he doesn’t finish well, when will Stewart’s concern turn to panic?
“When you’re two races from Richmond in the fall and you’ve got to make the Chase,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of races to get these points caught up that we’re behind.”
Stewart: Speedway’s personality, history set it apart
Tony Stewart didn’t used to enjoy racing at Martinsville Speedway.
Now the veteran driver is the owner of three grandfather clocks, which is the trophy given to the winner of the Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville.
“It’s one of the cooler trophies in our sport,” Stewart said. “Normally 20-year-old kids don’t get too excited about grandfather clocks, but you realize it’s more than that here at Martinsville. There’s a lot of pride and a lot of history with this sport here. If you can win here, you can win at Bristol and Richmond. And winning on the short tracks is a lot harder than winning some of the 11?2-mile or 2-mile tracks.”
Martinsville Speedway’s half-mile oval is the only track that was on the schedule in the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that still hosts the series today.
And Stewart doesn’t see that ever changing.
“I don’t care how old it gets or how far down the road it gets, this is not going to be a track that I ever see leaving the schedule,” Stewart said. “It’s got too much history. It’s got too much personality, and that’s what you see a lack of in some of these two-mile and 11?2-mile tracks. You are going to get strung out. You are going to get away from people and the fans really like to see us on top of each other. I think that’s what ensures the longevity of this race track, is the action they’re going to see.”