Tony Stewart gets his hands dirty, then talks dirt
4/12/2012 08:00:00 AM LJC
Customers at the Mobil 1 Lube Express in Carrollton, Texas, got a surprise Wednesday when reigning Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart showed up to lend a hand.
Located about 30 miles east of Texas Motor Speedway, the busy station didn't miss too much of a beat and continued to service cars as Stewart answered media questions, shot a commercial for Mobil 1, and then changed the oil in a couple of lucky Chevy owners’ vehicles.
Yes, you read that right. Tony Stewart knows how to do an oil change. I've got the pictures to prove it.
When his shift was over, Stewart graciously took a few minutes to answer a few questions for Skirts and Scuffs, though he did ask what "that" (Skirts and Scuffs) meant.
When I explained the site’s mission statement, he said, “Female fans normally know more facts about what’s going on than men do anyway. I’d say they’re a more intelligent fan, on top of that. They normally know more about what we’ve done than we know about what we’ve done."
Resisting the urge to indulge in a victory dance because the Champ recognizes that women fans are intelligent, I got to the point. How does he think his recent dirt-track racing has helped his Cup driving?
“I think it’s helped a bunch, to be honest. When you’re dealing with a 3400lb racecar, car control is a big deal, so being able to run on the dirt…Just racing different types of cars keeps you…that’s a really good question actually, because I think it keeps your mind fresh on not getting stuck in a field, a particular field of car."
Stewart went on to say that going from a 3400lb car with 875hp to a 1300lb sprint car with 900hp means not only are the cars different but the driving style is as well.
"It’s a totally different kind of car, the driving style is totally different so it’s constantly challenging me as a driver to stay on top of the learning aspect of it. Especially the way our sport is, the way technology changes, it’s nice to be able to keep up with it. The way you’re used to driving may change with the way a setup changes so you have to be able to adapt to that."
Since the diversity in racing helps him so much, I asked Stewart whether he planned to get Danica Patrick, who as everyone who follows racing-and some people who don't follow racing at all-knows, is part of the Stewart-Haas family. Would some practice time before she joins the guys for the Prelude to the Dream be in order?
Stewart explained that because of scheduling it was hard to get drivers the one night off to run the Dream, but that if Patrick ever expressed an interested in racing other types of cars, SHR would certainly support her in those efforts. He was adamant, however, that her appearance in the Prelude "Is just for her to have some fun," racing on dirt with other drivers who are from the same series she is. Though many of them may have raced other types of cars before, they’re all still NASCAR drivers.
In fact, the whole concept of the Prelude is, he explained, for drivers to be able to go out and race without worrying about the local short-track drivers. Stewart said, “There’s about a third of them that are good drivers and want to win. There’s about a third of them that just want to beat you, and then the other third just wants to tear your car up. So it’s nice to go to a race like this where we all just want to have fun.”
When I mentioned that he looks like he’s having a lot more fun racing these days, Stewart said he’s getting a good balance between getting to run the dirt races he enjoys and Sprint Cup racing. “I love running Cup races too, but there’s no pressure. The only pressure is what I put on myself. I’ve got three guys who work on my car on the sprint car team. There are 160 people at Stewart-Haas Racing, so it’s just a different set of circumstances.”
Stewart said that the great thing about his group of guys is that they all love racing. Whether they came from dirt-tracks, asphalt or another type of surface, “They all just love racing, period.”
I'd say that about sums up Tony Stewart, too. He just loves racing. Period.