Stewart happy?  Yes he is!
by Stan Creekmore, NASCAR Editor

June 17, 2003

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Six months after winning his first Winston Cup Championship there are still a few things left on Tony Stewart’s to do list.

“ I want to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, drive a Formula 1 car, drive a Top Fuel dragster over 300 mph so I can feel the wind in my hair, win a World of Outlaws A main and win the Knoxville Nationals,” said Stewart at the end of a very pleasant and revealing interview.

Stewart is happy. His team is happy and that is really all that matters.

Asked what he thought of his current position in the point standings Stewart replied, “I’m not even concerned. I haven’t looked at a standings sheet in six weeks.”

Don’t get the wrong idea, Stewart would dearly love to defend his Winston Cup title, but if it doesn’t happen, well then it doesn’t happen. What is most important is having fun.

“I think we are going to have the most fun second half of a season we have ever had. We feel like we're Saturday night short track racing and for all of us we’ve had the most fun and success when we were short track racing,” explained Stewart. “We can still defend the title. We know we can do it.”

The 2002 season was not the easiest for Stewart and the Home Depot crew. Self-destruction rode their bumper tighter than a pack of cars at Daytona or Talladega. All that has changed; now the team finds the positives in every situation. They focus on the good to overcome the bad.

“Life is better now than it’s ever been; even five years ago,” said Stewart. “It started the day after we won the championship and it just keeps growing. Having fun has made it easier for this team to focus on the task at hand. We don’t let anyone distract us. If they don’t wear orange we don’t let them distract us in any way.”

Stewart has also been helped this year by the use of a C0 (carbon monoxide) converter which has alleviated the overpowering headaches he has suffered through in the past.

“I know Sundays are a heck of a lot better going home. Last year it was all I could do to just get out of the car and not throw up. We were using large quantities of oxygen just so I could get home after a race. Now I can unwind, relax and debrief when I get out of the car.”

Not sure if using the converter has changed him, Stewart does admit that what he once thought was a normal price to pay for driving a racecar isn’t normal at all.

“I know now that carbon monoxide affects different people differently and I feel much better this year than I did last year.”

Feeling better doesn’t mean Stewart doesn’t get angry or even feel a bit of jealousy.

“I was real jealous of Gordon driving Montoya’s car. I was jealous but I was also happy for Jeff. He never got the opportunity to run an open wheel car at that level and he should have. But, yeah I would love to swap places with Schumacher. Go head to head.”

One champ against another. Now there’s an event that would make a lot of people happy.

The author can be contacted stanc@autoracing1.com

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