KANNAPOLIS, N.C., (May 28, 2014) – Tony Stewart’s last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win came 36 races ago at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Wheeling a black and yellow No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Stewart started 22nd and captured victory by way of a late-race pit call, where a two-tire pit stop with just 19 laps remaining put him in position for the win. Stewart took the lead for the first time on lap 398 of the 400-lap race and never looked back. It was Stewart’s 48th career Sprint Cup win and his third at the concrete, 1-mile oval.
This weekend, Stewart returns to Dover as the defending winner of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks. And much like last year when he came into Round No. 13 on the 36-race Sprint Cup schedule, Stewart is looking for a jumpstart to his season.
Prior to last year’s victory, Stewart was 20th in points with only two top-10 finishes. This year, Stewart is 22nd in points with four top-10 finishes. A case of déjà vu would suit Stewart and his Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 team just fine.
A repeat performance is certainly possible, for the last two times Stewart has raced on a concrete track, he has finished first and fourth. The win, of course, was last year at Dover. The fourth-place finish came earlier this year when Stewart finished fourth at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Stewart didn’t race at either Bristol or Dover last fall after having to sit out the final 15 races of the 2013 season with a broken right leg sustained in an Aug. 5 sprint car accident.
The layoff didn’t seem to affect Stewart, at least when it came to racing on concrete, as Stewart’s fourth-place finish at Bristol indicated. While Dover is the next race on a concrete surface, Stewart and his No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet have spent plenty of time on a concrete track, specifically, Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. Stewart tested at the 1.33-mile oval April 30-May 1 and then Scott Riggs spent May 6-7 testing at Nashville in the same car Stewart had driven.
That car, Chassis No. 14-825, is what Stewart used to finish fourth at Bristol, and it’s the same car Stewart will race this weekend at Dover.
The car’s history is short, unlike Stewart’s history at Dover, where the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks will mark his 30th Sprint Cup start at the aptly named Monster Mile. In his 29 previous starts, Stewart has three wins, three second-place finishes, 11 top-fives, 16 top-10s and a total of 1,075 laps led.
Just like his 29th start, Stewart’s 30th start at Dover will come with Code 3 Associates (www.Code3Associates.org) aboard his No. 14 Chevrolet. Code 3 Associates is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization specializing in animal rescue and recovery in disaster areas. The continued operation of Code 3 Associates relies totally on the generosity of donors and bravery of its responders. Increasing awareness of the organization’s mission is the reason for the partnership with SHR. Stewart knows delivering another strong run at Dover is the best way to deliver for Code 3 Associates.
Stewart delivered in the best way possible in his last visit to Dover, and he knows that his next best shot at victory is paved with concrete.
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you remember about your win last year at Dover?
“I remember thinking that if someone had told me that we were going to win, I would’ve told them they were crazy. We just didn’t have the car to win the race, but we had great pit strategy at the end. We had a car that was solid, but we just never could get the track position to get in clean air. We changed only two tires on that last stop to get up front. The car felt a lot better up there and it didn’t seem like the guys who took four tires had a huge advantage taking off. When we noticed we were catching the leaders, we kind of got going on the bottom and made up even more time. It was just a big win for us and really gave us some momentum for the next few races.”
After early success at Dover, it’s been a track that in recent years has proven troublesome, at least prior to last year’s win. What is your mindset going into Dover?
“Dover is probably the track where we have struggled the most, which certainly made the win there that much sweeter. It was the one track that we always had to look at and say, ‘This is one that we have to figure out and do better if we’re going to have a shot at this.’ We have to survive there. What we did there last year helped us out, but even with the win, we have some work to do, not only at Dover, but overall with our program so far this season.”
Dover’s surface is concrete. Do you have to alter your driving style when you race on concrete?
“I don’t think you drive it any differently. But because it is concrete, the track has a lot more bumps than an asphalt track would. There are seams in Dover’s surface and places where they’ve cut the concrete for expansion. Those sections shift and change, and every year when you go there, the bumps are a little bit different than they were the year before. Dover is a track that’s constantly changing. But it’s one of those places where you really can’t change your driving style. You still have to do the same things you always do. It’s just a matter of finding the package that’s right for that racetrack. But other than that, you go through the same set of scenarios and challenges you would on any asphalt track – either the car is going to be tight or it’s going to be loose.”
Dover is a pretty unique track being that it’s a high-banked, concrete, 1-mile oval. How do you approach it?
“Dover is a track that is kind of a two-phase deal. It’s easy to get your car too tight in the center (of the corner) trying to get it to drive up off the corner nice, and it seems like if you get it to rotate through the corner, then it’s way loose off. Those are the two things that you really battle there. It’s the sacrifice of where do you want to be a little bit off to accomplish having a balanced car.”
Is Dover the type of racetrack where a driver can make up for a racecar that isn’t handling well?
“To a certain extent, yes. With the way the cars slide around on the racetrack late in the day, there are times when a driver can make up for what the car won’t do. They can move around on the racetrack and help themselves out by finding a faster groove.”
You have Code 3 Associates on your racecar at Dover. Talk about that.
“We’re honored to have Code 3 Associates as a partner with Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s nice to know there’s an organization out there that takes care of a sometimes overlooked but very important family member – your pet. Taking care of animals has always been important to me, and when we started our foundation, we made animal welfare a priority. To be able to promote the work of Code 3 Associates so that it can do even more work for people and their pets is very satisfying.”