|"I could really use those owner points!"|
“From the ownership side, looking out the window, it's been very busy downstairs,” said Stewart. “These guys have done a great job through the winter of catching up. It's taken a little time to get some of the pieces and parts, but our guys have done a good job of getting ready. I’m proud of the effort they've put forth to get everything ready for Daytona.”
The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion admitted that SHR is “still playing a little bit of catch‑up,” but said every other team is likely in the same boat. “These guys are putting in the time and hard work and effort, and when you go down (to the shop) and you see how hard these guys are working, as a car owner, I'm really proud of what I see.”
Competition Director Greg Zipadelli agreed that parts and pieces have been difficult to come by this off season, but said he sees light at the end of the tunnel.
“Everybody knows (about the) deck lids,” he said. “It's been really hard to get cars done and finished, but we're getting there. We're finally getting the parts that we need, but the biggest thing is (adapting to) the rule changes. It's just been a lot of work. The fab shop is about wore out already.”
Stewart gave high marks to the new, Gen-6 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars, calling the new Chevy SS “the coolest looking of all the cars we've run in the Cup Series. I know they haven't unveiled the street version of the SS yet, but you guys will be extremely surprised at how similar they really are. Chevrolet is building a V‑8, rear‑wheel drive car just like we race on the racetrack. From that standpoint, it's the most excited I've been as far as how Chevy is involved in our sport and what the roots of it really are going back to.
“We did the test at Charlotte… and the speeds were unbelievably fast and the cars really drove well,” said Stewart. “If they race as good as they drive, we're going to have a cool year.”
Teammates Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick also spoke glowingly of the new car, with Newman saying, “The new car has a lot less downforce at a faster racetrack, which is kind of untypical. Getting a chance to work with Matt (Borland) again in the first real test we've had with a non‑fiberglass bodied car was a lot of fun. It's going to be interesting going to a place like Vegas, getting more time and experience at an open practice session so we can keep evolving this new Gen‑6 Chevrolet.”
“They look great, that's for sure,” said Patrick. “More than anything, I was pleased with how fast the car was. Tony Gibson and the guys did a good job of working on that car over the winter. And at Charlotte, there was a lot of grip. You could drive into the corner really hard and get back to the gas really well. I think that the better platform we have to push hard and run close together, we'll put on a better show for the fans.
“That's what's important.”
“It's still a race car,” stressed Zipadelli. “A lot of the same principles apply. It's got four springs and shocks (and) it's just figuring out what this car wants, what each driver likes. They did change some rules, no rear bars and things of that nature, so it'll definitely be a little bit different. But I don't see it being drastic.”
Stewart said he will not transfer his 2012 owner points to Patrick to ensure her participation in the season-opening Daytona 500.
“No,” he laughed, “I worked hard for my points. That's the confidence I have in her. I feel like Tony and the team have done a great job building her a great car for Daytona, and I feel like she's got the talent and capability to race her way in. I think she'll do a great job on her own.”
Despite a major crash that swept-up roughly a dozen cars in the recent Daytona test session, Stewart said he has no qualms about racing close during Speedweeks 2013.
“I don't think there's any anxiety going into it,” he said. “Up until that point, everything was pretty calm and status quo (to) what we've been used to. It was actually nice not pushing each other and not being able to see through the cars because we were so close.
“Every year, it's still trial and error. You're always learning new things from what we learned the year before, and this year is no different. The good thing about having all the practice we'll have is that we all have that time to learn. The cars drive really stable so far, not more so than what we've had in the past, but they're fairly stable. I don't feel like there's any sense of urgency more so than what we normally have going into Daytona because of that."
Photo: Davis Turner