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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Team notes: Drivers on track for New Hampshire visit

NASCAR team reports as the Sprint Cup Series makes its first stop of the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing

This week: Stewart's points lead has increased to 84 as the Cup series heads to New Hampshire for the first of two races this season. Stewart has two wins, 10 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 20 starts at the "Magic Mile." He was 13th last June and eighth in September.

Last week: Stewart finished second to Kasey Kahne in the season's first road-course race, the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway.

Etc.: Stewart owes much of his Cup success to his father, Nelson, who raced late model stock cars across northern Indiana when he was in his 20s. At the age of 44, Nelson's focus changed. He sold his SCCA D-Production car in favor of a go-kart for his 7-year-old son. In addition to the go-kart, Nelson gave Tony all of the traits that separate a good driver from a good racer. "He never let me settle for second," said Tony Stewart, now in his 29th year of competitive racing. "He didn't like it when we ran second, and he knew that I didn't like it when we ran second. If he saw that I wasn't giving 100%, then he was on me pretty hard about it. He pushed me to be better. He never pressured me to be the best race-car driver in the world, but he did want me to be the best race-car driver that I could be. He never compared me to anybody else. He expected that what I could do was what I could do. He never said that because this guy over here could do something, that I should be able to do it, too. He pushed me hard, but he was fair about it. That's probably why you see so much fire in me today, because he always wanted me to be the best that I could be." ... As a 37-year-old, when Tony Stewart made the massive leap from being just a driver to taking on the dual role of driver/owner with his own team — Stewart-Haas Racing — Nelson has been there to see his son succeed once again. "At the time he won the first Brickyard, I thought, 'This has got to be the biggest thing we've been involved with or ever seen,' " said Nelson, who watched Tony win his first Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in 2005 and his second in 2007. "But, knowing what it took to get to this point in this deal and seeing him win a race, I'm not going to say I'm putting it above the first Brickyard, but it's right up there with the first Brickyard. Tony is having fun. I guess it's a different side of him than everybody thought he had. It's been there all along. Right now, everything's just going really, really well and things are falling in place and he's got all good people and everybody's having fun. That's the most important thing is that everybody's having fun. With fun comes success."

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