No. 14 Haas Automation Chevrolet driver Tony Stewart has done just about everything there is to do in motorsports. He’s won three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, raced in nearly every open-wheel series in America, and has presided as a championship team owner and as a top-notch track owner. This weekend at Watkins (N.Y.) Glen International, he’ll face something he’s never encountered in 40 plus years of racing.
|Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing|
(Streeter Lecka/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Image)
“I’ve never been to a road course that has been repaved,” Stewart said. “So it’s a first time for me.
Stewart is referring to the $12 million off-season repaving project of the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen road course unveiled to some drivers at a Goodyear tire test last week. In addition to the resurfacing of the racetrack, workers also poured new concrete on pit road, completed electrical work, installed concrete rumble strips in the turns, and finished grading and grassing along the track’s perimeter.
Last week, Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Kurt Busch and the No. 41 team for SHR tested at the high-speed road course built in 1956 and was last repaved in 1989. NASCAR began racing on the track’s “short course” layout in 1986.
“I’m curious to talk with Kurt (Busch) and see what he thought about the test there,” Stewart said. “I know he said the curbs were quite a bit different. I’m going to pick his brain this week. I’m not too worried about it. I know they (curbs) are in the same place they’ve always been. The best we ran there is when we didn’t have to use the curbs. If you get your car right, you shouldn’t have to use them too much. I think the bus stop is the only section of the racetrack where you really rely on the curbs. If it’s different, then we’ll just have to sort it out.”
Few drivers have ever mastered getting around Watkins Glen as well as Stewart. He owns five wins there – the most of any driver – seven top-two finishes, 10 top-10s, and has led 225 laps in his 15 career Sprint Cup starts at The Glen. His average Watkins Glen start is 6.1, his average finish is 10.3, and he has a lap-completion rate of 97.5 percent.
Stewart thinks the new pavement at Watkins Glen will make it a very different racetrack on which to drive.
“Because of the repaving, there will be more grip everywhere,” he said. “Braking zones have more grip, getting in the gas has more grip, cornering has more grip. Anytime there is more grip, it’s harder to pass. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
|The car's new
paint scheme revealed during the No. 14 Darlington Throwback|
Announcement at NASCAR Hall of Fame on August 3, 2016 in Charlotte
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Describe Watkins Glen?
“Watkins Glen is just sheer speed. It’s about being able to carry a lot of corner speed, and brakes are still an issue there. You are carrying so much speed there that, at the end of three long straightaways, you have to really be hard on the brakes to get slowed down. Going up through the esses at Watkins Glen is probably the coolest part of that racetrack because it’s two blind corners at the top. You have to really be on the gas running fast, but it’s fun. It’s a very fun racetrack if you can get your timing down and get your car to do what you want it to do. It’s a blast to be racing there.”
Are there road-course ringers anymore?
“There aren’t any road-course ringers. You aren’t going to bring somebody who doesn’t run a Cup car and expect those guys to go out and win the race. When I started, Ron Fellows, Scott Pruett and those guys who were true road-course guys were the guys you looked at to be the dominant force. You just don’t see that anymore. If you don’t race a Cup car, you aren’t going to be successful.”
Why so much success over the years at Watkins Glen?
“There is something about that place that we figured out. There are parts we knew were important and that’s where we focused to get our car good. When we could, it made our cars fast.”
Photos by Streeter Lecka/
Stewart-Haas Racingvia Getty Images
Stewart-Haas Racingvia Getty Images
|Bobby Allison and Tony Stewart pose for pictures with the car's new paint scheme|
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS)
- · Five wins, seven top fives, ten top 10s
- · Average finish of 11.444, sixth-best
- · Average Running Position of 7.395, series-best
- · Driver Rating of 116.1, series-best
- · 106 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-best
- · Average Green Flag Speed of 120.755, series-fastest
- · 734 Laps in the Top 15 (90.2), series-most
- · 201 Quality Passes, fifth-most