Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony
Stewart feels right at home when NASCAR makes its annual pilgrimage to
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Stewart, who hails from nearby Columbus, Ind., is a two-time winner of the
400-mile race at Indianapolis. His victories there came in 2005, the same
season he captured his second series championship, and '07. Stewart has
performed exceptionally well at this famed 2.5-mile racetrack, finishing
outside the top-20 only once in his previous 13 starts. He finished 23rd in
the 2008 race.
The week leading up to the Brickyard 400 is generally a busy week for Stewart
in his home state, but he and his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team will have
some downtime before Sunday's race.
"The schedule this week is actually a little bit lighter than normal," Stewart
said. "We don't do anything at the speedway until Saturday. So it kind of
gives us one of those days back a little bit to rest, and I'm going to take
full advantage of Friday and watch the Silver Crown cars (at nearby Lucas Oil
Raceway) and the Grand-Am race (at IMS) this weekend before we get started on
With seven races remaining in the regular season, Stewart is virtually assured
of making the 12-driver field for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup
championship. He is currently seventh in the standings, 51-points ahead of
11th-place Carl Edwards. But Stewart's three wins so far this year should be
good enough for him to qualify for the playoffs.
Therefore, Stewart doesn't feel a need to take any calculated risks to make
"We have not talked about strategy yet, and I think the biggest thing for us
right now, even though it's a big weekend, this is one battle in the war, and
the war is to try to win a championship at the end of the season," he said.
"To do that, we have got to beat the system.
"So I don't think an all-or-nothing attitude is the approach we are going to
have this week. We definitely have that luxury to do that with the three wins
that we've got, but I think right now, in the big picture, we are trying to
get the consistency the best we can, and I would like to see us put together
some consistent runs before the Chase actually starts."
Since this is his home race, does Stewart feel more pressure to win at
Indianapolis than any other racetrack?
"I don't," he replied. "I like to win no matter where we're at. It's fun to
win here at home. It's always fun to win at Indianapolis, because it does mean
a lot to me to win there. Probably the best part is we have so many friends
and family that get to come up to the Brickyard. That makes the days even that
"As far as putting pressure on ourselves, I don't think we really do that
anymore. As time has gone on, I think after we won that first one in 2005,
it's just taken a huge weight off our shoulders on that side, and just go at
it every year with the attitude that we know what it takes to win there, and
we try to do our best to accomplish it."
Ryan Newman, who is Stewart's teammate, and David Stremme also hail from the
"Hoosier State." Newman and Stremme grew up in South Bend.
"The history of the sport, the history of motorsports at the speedway is
something I have always appreciated, and I look forward to trying to add my
name to that record book," said Newman, who is currently 14th in points.
Newman has only one top-10 finish in 11 starts at Indianapolis. He placed
fourth there during his 2002 rookie season.
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon was born in Vallejo, Calif. but grew up
near IMS in Pittsboro, Ind. Gordon holds the record for most Sprint Cup
victories at Indy with four. He won the inaugural race there in 1994. His
other wins at this track came in 1998, 2001 and '04. He finished second in
last year's race.
"Growing up here and going to the track numerous times as a kid, there is just
something special about each trip here," said Gordon, who has competed in all
18 previous races at Indy. "But that special feeling changes quickly when I
get out on the track, because this place is so challenging."
The 400-miler at Indianapolis is arguably the second most prestigious race on
the Sprint Cup schedule -- the Daytona 500 being the first.
Three drivers have won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year.
Dale Jarrett first did it in 1994. Jimmie Johnson accomplished the feat in
2006, and Jamie McMurray did so in 2010.
Matt Kenseth won this year's Daytona 500. Kenseth comes to Indianapolis as the
points leader. His best finish in 12 races at this track is second, which came
in 2003 and '06.
"I really feel like Indy is the second biggest race of the year, and everyone
wants to have the chance to be able to win that race, win the trophy and kiss
the bricks there," Kenseth said. "Indy is one of the most unique tracks that
we visit on the circuit. With our time on track there being so limited without
any testing and just a few practices, you really just unload and try to get up
to speed on things as soon as you can to tune in your car."
Last year, Paul Menard became the first driver to score his first career
Sprint Cup win at Indianapolis. Menard gambled on fuel late in the race. He
passed McMurray for the lead with four laps to go and then fended off a
challenge from Gordon during the last couple of laps for his maiden victory in
his 167th NASCAR big league start.
"We were fortunate enough to win the race last year and kiss the bricks, and
like to do that again, for sure," Menard said. "We have to get better as a
team. We are sitting 15th in points, lost a few spots last week (at New
Hampshire), but in order to contend for race wins, we have got to get better,
and we all understand that, and we are all working hard towards it."
Forty-seven teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Crown Royal 400 at
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, July 29. Race: Crown Royal 400 at the
Brickyard. Site: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Track: 2.5-mile oval. Start
time: 1:00 p.m.(ET). Laps: 160. Miles: 400. 2011 Winner: Paul Menard.
Television: ESPN. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
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