Talladega Still On Stewarts Plate
October 1, 2008 | 7:37 P.M. EST
Talladega is the last track left on the schedule that Stewart can cross off winning at with Joe Gibbs Racing before moving on to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. The other active tracks where Stewart failed to record a Cup win at in his tenure with Gibbs included Auto Club Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway.
Sunday will mark Stewart's 350th career Cup Series start and 40th combined start on the restrictor-plate tracks of Talladega and Daytona International Speedway with JGR. Although he has yet to win the Daytona 500, Stewart has gone to victory lane twice in the July race at the "World Center of Racing."
As his career with JGR winds down, Stewart will look to bookend his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Talladega with a Cup win in his final plate start with the team.
"I'm just happy that I got a chance to finally win a race at Talladega," Stewart said about finally getting the chance to pull into victory lane in April's Aaron's 312. "We've got a ton of friends down there and colleagues from the Fayette County Sheriff's Department there too.
"It's a place I always look forward to running well because it means so much to me."
A win in the AMP Energy 500 would not only put a check mark in Stewart's to do list in the Cup Series, but it will also extend his streak of winning a race each year since his rookie season in 1999.
Stewart has come close to winning in the Cup Series at Talladega, finishing second there six times. The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota has led 244 laps at the Alabama speed plant, including 61 this past spring until a crash took him out of contention, and his average finish of 13.9 is tops among all drivers with 16 or more starts.
"I think our record speaks for itself for how many laps we've led and where we've been," Stewart said. "We obviously know how to get ourselves in position to win. It's just sometimes finishing the race off has been the hard part."
After falling four positions in the standings to 11th with his finish at Kansas, Stewart says this weekend's race will now be less nerve-wracking.
"We're looking at it as an opportunity to gain some points and positions," said Stewart, who trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 255 points. "We can't go much lower than where we are now, so unlike the teams ahead of us, we really don't have to worry about losing points."
The No. 20 team hopes chassis No. 218 will do the trick this weekend in its debut. This car will take to the high banks for the first time on Friday in practice after spending a bunch of time in the wind tunnel.