Stewart Confident About COT

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Tony Stewart has never really been a big proponent of the Car of Tomorrow.

But, with the way his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet performed last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, until the time his fuel pump broke, the COT is beginning to grow on Stewart.

And, if his car performs the way did at Bristol today in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Goody’s Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Stewart is confident more than confident that he can repeat as the race’s winner.

Stewart, who will start seventh on the grid at Martinsville, led 257 of 500 laps before his car’s engine gave way at Bristol and relegated him to a 35th-place finish.

“Because we ran so well, that’s what made Bristol so hard to take,” said Stewart, a two-time winner at Martinsville. “I mean, we were really, really good. It’s rare when you have a car that good anywhere, never mind Bristol.

“The car was perfect, and that made how the race ended for us hurt even more. But, in terms of the confidence it gave us for where we are with the Car of Tomorrow, it let us know that we’re where we needed to be.”

Stewart’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, led 177 laps at Bristol. He encountered mechanical problems late in the race and finished 14th.

A Virginia native, Hamlin will start the Goody’s Cool Orange 500 from the front after winning the Budweiser Pole Award on Friday.

“It would be one things if we had come to Bristol and struggled all day and had to look ahead to these races with the Car of Tomorrow not knowing what to expect,” said Hamlin, who sits in ninth place in the NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. “But, we were good all day and only a pump problem kept us from possibly winning at Bristol. We just happen to be one of the teams that have really adapted to the new car well so far.”

J.J. Yeley, the third driver in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable, qualified fifth Friday in his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet.

Kyle Busch is the only driver to ever have won a race in the Car of Tomorrow after taking the checkered flag last Sunday at Bristol. He’s still not a fan of the COT by any means, but, Busch will look to make it 2-for-2 in Sunday’s Goody’s Cool Orange 500.

He’ll start 14th on the grid. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and NEXTEL Cup Series points leader Jeff Gordon will start third.

“This race will be a lot tougher for us because we had a test session at Bristol,” Busch said. “This week, everybody’s kinda coming in here cold turkey. The only real thing you can take is maybe what your adjustments did during the race, but Bristol and Martinsville are so different that you’re going to be doing different things than maybe what you did last week.”

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