Originally created 07/17/98

Stewart says Dover not such a monster

DOVER, Del. -- Dover Downs International Speedway is called the Monster Mile, a name stock car drivers use out of respect for the highest-banked track of its length anywhere in the world.

But Tony Stewart, the Indy Racing League's defending champion and current points leader, feels very comfortable racing through the 24-degree turns over which half of each lap must be run. In fact, White Lightning -- as the track's owners bill its concrete racing surface -- is a more appropriate sobriquet to Stewart.

"We don't lift at all," he said, meaning it is pedal to the metal and no brakes all the way around -- thorough all 20 seconds of each lap.

That might sound difficult, but Stewart insists it's much easier for him than driving a stock car -- which he also has done at Dover.

"With the rules that we have, as far as the wing angles and the IRL's efforts to slow the cars down, the cars are comfortable to drive," he said.

And running wide open removes one large variable from the process of figuring out how to get around Dover and some of the longer, high-banked tracks now on the IRL circuit.

"It makes the learning curve a little easier," said Stewart, whose Dover test last month at 183.393 mph was nearly 30 mph faster than the track record for a stock car.

His speed makes Stewart -- who next year moves to Winston Cup as a teammate to Bobby Labonte -- the overwhelming favorite to win the pole Saturday for Sunday's Pep Boys 400K. It will be the first Indy-car race in the past 29 years at Dover Downs.

Why is Stewart so fast?

"It's because Larry Curry has done his homework," he said of Team Menard's manager. "And maybe because I'm used to running banked tracks, it doesn't take me long to get up to speed.

"That gives us an opportunity to fine-tune our setups while maybe some guys are still trying to get comfortable. They might eventually get as fast as we are, but they won't get there until the end of the last session."

But the banking at tracks such as Dover creates a problem not experienced on basically flat layouts such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"You feel a lot of lateral g-forces pushing you to the right side of the seat," he said of Indy. "On the banks, you still have lateral g's, but most of the forces you feel are pushing you down toward the bottom of the seat.

"It takes a while to get used to. The testing we did at Dover will give us an advantage on the guys that didn't test."


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