|Tony Stewart in action in 2011|
returns to action this weekend, going from the relative quiet of the offseason to the hectic pace of Speedweeks and the biggest race of the year, the Dayton 500. Many teams and drivers try to get away and clear their heads in the brief break between Homestead and Daytona. This isn't the case for defending series champion Tony Stewart, who's off-season was focused on his new crew chief Steve Addington and new competition director Greg Zipadelli.
"There’s been a lot of work that’s gone on in the organization and I’ve pretty much stuck around just for moral support." Smoke stated recently. "When you hire a new crew chief and competition director, you don’t want to hire them and say, ‘I’m going on vacation. You guys can work. I’m going on vacation.’ So I felt like I needed to be at the shop a little more. I didn’t do anything other than just be there for moral support for them. I think that meant a lot to those guys and to the team, that we were there a lot."
"NASCAR is pretty efficient now with the driver’s time. There are a lot of things that we have to do, but you do it whether you’re the champion or not. There aren’t extra responsibilities or obligations because you’re the champion. But NASCAR does a really good job every year of making things more efficient for us as drivers, too, and understanding the time that the sponsors and the teams need from us. I didn’t do a lot in the offseason. I didn’t take much time for myself, but I guess I felt so good about what we did at the end of the year that you want to spend that time with the team and do what you can to get ready for next year. Hopefully, it gives us the opportunity to do it again." Stewart said.
Speaking of Addington, Stewart talked about bringing him on board. "When we saw him at Joe Gibbs Racing and worked with him and Kyle (Busch) together, Steve’s one of those guys who has a lot of practical knowledge, having been in the sport a long time. But he’s one of those guys who I think is really easy to work with. I mean, in team meetings with him, he was easy to talk to. That communication was really easy. It wasn’t always easy to talk to some of the other crew chiefs we had. So, having him on board, I think that’s part of why we made that decision, because I felt like he’s a guy I could work with really easily. He’ll be my third crew chief, now. The first two guys I had were easy to work with. So I think we’ve been really lucky from that standpoint, to have guys we communicate well with and get along with. Steve just kind of is one of those guys who is a lot like Darian (Grubb, former crew chief). I think he may not have all the engineering background that Darian has, but I think he’s got the practical knowledge and is a better fit for me."
Stewart and Addington bring chassis #14-634 to the Shootout this weekend. This car was built for Daytona last year, ran 10th fastest on time, qualified 25th, and finished 13th. The car led 30 laps at the fall Talladega race, finishing 7th. It's had extensive wind tunnel time since then. Photo Credit: Steve Pouliot Images for fanviewpoint.com