Stewart Back In Top 10
July 17, 2003 | 4:33 P.M. EST
In the span of seven races dating back to the May 25 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.), Stewart has gained 12 point positions, with his typical second half surge to the Winston Cup season seemingly underway.
"We're at that point of the season where the tracks are getting hot and slippery, and that's what we like," said Stewart. "When guys can't hold it wide open and they can't sit there on high-grip tracks and they actually have to drive these things - that's when we start getting fast."
Stewart's words ring prophetic coming into Sunday's New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, for the tight and fast 1.058-mile oval is notorious for its lack of grip. And in an effort to combat that lack of grip and add more durability to the track's surface, asphalt imported from Trinidad was laid down in the corners, giving drivers a new variable to deal with upon entering round 18 on the 36-race Winston Cup schedule.
In an effort to get a leg up on their competitors, Stewart and Co. road tripped to New Hampshire following the last off-weekend of the season and tested the new track surface June 30-July 1. With one New Hampshire victory already under their belts (July 2000), The Home Depot Racing Team looks for their test to pay off in career win number 17.
"They paved the apron and made the apron part of the race track," Stewart said. "It's hard to run on the flat down there, so you have to run where the banking is, which is up in the corner. Instead of staying low through the whole corner, you kind of take a diamond approach where you drive in low, hit the banking in the middle of the corner, then drive low off onto the straightaway."