Friday, Oct 07

Stewart Got Dirt?

When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series left Pocono (Pa.) Raceway last August, crews immediately began ripping up the decades-old pavement so that fresh, new asphalt would greet drivers when the series returned to the quirky 2.5-mile triangle in June 2012.

Had one asked Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, if he wanted to see new pavement at the venerable facility, he probably would’ve said no and instead asked track officials to just rip up the old pavement and simply leave the dirt surface behind.

Stewart has thrived on dirt this year, especially of late. The three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion has offset his time in the fendered-world of stock cars by also competing in the rough-and-tumble open-wheel ranks of dirt Sprint Car racing. And just as Stewart has succeeded in NASCAR, which his 47 career Sprint Cup wins attest, he’s simultaneously succeeding in a totally different racing environment.

The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series boasts great drivers who compete on tight-and-fast bullrings with high-horsepower Sprint Cars that constantly slide on the track’s dirt surface. Three times in the span of four days, Stewart displayed his master of this discipline by winning in a Sprint Car.

On the eve of the Brickyard 400, Stewart won the National Racing Alliance (NRA) Sprint Invaders 360 Winged Sprint Car Series event at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. And after finishing 10th in last Sunday’s Brickyard 400, Stewart ventured into Canada and kept right on winning. He won a 360 Winged Sprint Car race Monday night at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario and then grabbed some more northern exposure for sponsors Office Depot and Mobil 1 by scoring his third career World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series A-Feature win Tuesday night at Ohsweken.

Stewart has six Sprint Car wins in all this season, dating back to early February before the NASCAR season even began. It started with an All-Star Circuit of Champions 410 Winged Sprint Car race on Feb. 11 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. Stewart then won an American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) Midwest Region 360 Winged Sprint Car race on April 21 at Eagle (Neb.) Raceway. And he scored his second career World of Outlaws win July 17 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.

That versatility will suit Stewart well at Pocono, despite its dirt having been covered with pavement. While new asphalt encompassing its 2.5-miles, Pocono’s triangular layout remains tricky.

The track, designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward, has three different corners, each modeled after a different track. Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is modeled after the now-closed Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at eight degrees, is a nod to the turns at Indianapolis. And turn three, banked at six degrees, is modeled after the corners at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis.

It’s a unique design that has always been a challenge for drivers and mechanics alike as they attempt to find the fastest way around the “Tricky Triangle” in search of victory lane.

But just as Stewart has found the right combination to win at tracks where the dirt surface changes by the minute, he has seemingly always adapted to Pocono’s nuances.

In 27 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono, Stewart has earned two poles, scored two wins and racked up eight top-threes, 10 top-fives and 19 top-10s while leading a total of 156 laps.

Stewart is obviously well-schooled at Pocono, which makes the paint scheme on his No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet even more appropriate. The signature red and black of his No. 14 machine has instead been replaced by white with a montage of back-to-school supplies – all of which can be found at Office Depot. 3M™, Lenovo®, Elmer’s® and Monster® Headphones & Speakers are Office Depot partners with products featured on the car, including everything from notebooks, a laptop and headphones, to pens, pencils and Post-It notes showcase the variety of school supplies and technology that one’s child needs to be successful in the classroom.

“We always get excited about sporting a new back-to-school paint scheme on our No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy,” Stewart said. “The paint scheme is a fun way to remind parents and students that Office Depot provides one-stop, back-to-school shopping. From elementary school to college, Office Depot has the supplies that will help students start the new school year off right.”

And as Stewart heads back to Pocono, three Sprint Car wins in the span of four days means that he’ll start the weekend off right, where in Sprint Cup, Stewart plans to improve upon the third-place finish he earned there just two months ago. 

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