Phoenix Familiar To Stewart
April 10, 2010 | 4:16 P.M. EST
“I started racing there in 1993 when I ran a USAC Silver Crown car," Stewart remembered. "And since then, I’ve run USAC Midgets, Indy cars, Supermodifieds, Nationwide Series cars, and of course, Sprint Cup. So, I’ve logged a bunch of laps there. To think that it all kind of started at Phoenix, I guess you could say it’s the place where my career came full-circle.”
The tricky one-mile desert oval is one of racing's most challenging venues but Stewart believes because of his long history at the track he has an advantage over most of his Sprint Cup competitors.
"Every type of car that I’ve driven here – from USAC Midgets and Silver Crown cars to Supermodifieds to Indy cars to Nationwide cars and now the Sprint Cup cars – running all those different divisions, the one common variable is the two ends of the track are unique and different from each other," he said. "It’s always been a situation where if your car is really good in (turns) three and four, you’re normally a little bit tight in (turns) one and two, and if you get one and two really good, you’re normally a little bit too loose in three and four.
"You do have to weigh the options and try to find that balance of which end of the track is more important to you. You know you’re not going to be perfect in both ends, and you’ll have to pick one end or the other to get your car really good. I do have a preference, but I don’t tell everybody else that. That’s what having all these years and these laps of experience there does for me. It’s the one secret variable that I try to use to my advantage.”
Stewart will take the green flag in Saturday night's race from the 11th position and is hoping he can find victory lane for the first time this Sprint Cup Series season. Returning to PIR gives Stewart the added benefit of confidence as he tries to notch a mark in the win column.
"Sure. Any time you go back to a facility that you’ve had success at, you’re always excited to go back there," he said. "It’s not only the performance that we’ve had there, it’s the total draw for me enjoying Phoenix so much. It’s just kind of the total package when I go out there. It’s a great facility.
"Obviously, there aren’t too many tracks you go to that you look over the backstretch and you see mountains and cactus everywhere. You hear people talking about cowboys going up there in the morning with a bag and grabbing rattlesnakes the day of the race to clear them out so people can sit down. It’s just a pretty special racetrack.”