Getting Rich At Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. - The spring NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway has served as a catalyst to Home Depot Chevrolet driver Tony Stewart over the past two years. In both 2001 and 2002, Stewart got a sluggish start to his season. He entered Richmond ninth in points in 2001, but a win in the May event bumped him up to seventh in points and helped earn his way to a runner-up finish in the season-ending point standings. In 2002, Stewart entered Richmond 10th in points, and his second straight win in the spring race brought him to eighth in points, laying the groundwork for what would be a championship year. In 2003, it's déjà vu all over again.

Stewart enters Saturday night's Pontiac Excitement 400 11th in points after a strong but short run the previous weekend in California. Stewart led three times for 100 laps - the most of any driver in the Auto Club 500 - but an engine failure relegated him to a 41st place finish.

With Stewart having scored three wins amongst three top-fives and six top-10s at Richmond, NASCAR's visit to the Virginia capital couldn't come at a better time.

Stewart likes Richmond a lot - and for good reason - as the Indiana native has led a total of 562 laps during his eight career Winston Cup starts. That amounts to 17.56 percent of the 3,200 available laps. And when Winston Cup isn't racing at Richmond, Stewart still is, having piloted a NASCAR Busch Series car, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck, a USAC Silver Crown car and a USAC Midget around the .750-mile oval. In fact, Stewart's most recent win at Richmond came last September, when he won the Craftsman Truck Series race in only his second Truck Series start.

If Stewart continues his winning ways at Richmond, he will become the first driver in NASCAR's modern era (1972 to present) to win three straight spring Richmond races. With Stewart's track record, few are betting against him.

"I just really like that track," Stewart said of RIR. "It's always been good to us. We got our first Winston Cup win at Richmond, and anytime you win your first race somewhere, that track automatically becomes very special to you. And since then, we've gotten two other wins. Obviously, we enjoy going there and we enjoy racing at night and we always seem to have a car that drives well."

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