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School's Out, But Old School Is In
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ATLANTAThe school year is coming to a close throughout the Southeast, but not at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The 55-year-old venue is all about old school. The 1.366-mile oval has been hosting NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races since 1950 when Johnny Mantz drove a black Plymouth to victory in a 74-car field. The quirky, egg-shaped layout Mantz spent over six-and-a-half hours lapping has lived on, giving today's drivers the ultimate throwback track. Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing, is a throwback himself, drawing comparisons to the ultimate old school racer - A.J. Foyt. When not racing in Nextel Cup, Stewart will steal away time to drive USAC Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown cars, along with dirt late models, winged sprint cars and pavement modifieds, or to keep things simple, anything with four tires that goes fast. Extra-curricular racing is nothing new to Stewart. The Columbus, Ind., native was jumping from car to car and race to race even back in his Indy car years when a full-time ride in Nextel Cup was a dot on the horizon. Proving this point was an Indianapolis T-shirt vendor who printed up a shirt with Stewart's name and an Indy car and a Midget that read, "New Blood From an Old School." The list of accomplishments made by the likes of Foyt and the competition of his day was never lost on Stewart. The venues where Foyt and others made history resonate with the two-time and reigning Nextel Cup champion, and venerable Darlington is proof-positive of that. "When I'm watching TV and I see an old race from Darlington, I'm able to see the history of Darlington and the Southern 500, along with all of the greats who have run there and won there and crashed out of the joint," said Stewart. Despite only moderate success at Darlington - seven top-10s in 13 career starts with a best finish of fourth (twice - spring 2000 and fall 2001) - Stewart likes Darlington. Its history, its roster of champions and its difficult nature makes a Darlington victory a cherished victory. With 25 wins under his belt and one already this season at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway - another old school venue at 59 years of age - Stewart is primed to log that long-desired Darlington win. He'll get that chance come Saturday night with the Dodge Charger 500.
|TONY STEWART'S DARLINGTON PERFORMANCE PROFILE|
|2005||Dodge Charger 500||15||10||Running/370||0||$131,586|
|2004||Carolina Dodge Dealers 400||8||17||Running/293||1||$101,118|
|2004||Mountain Dew Southern 500||6||17||Running/366||0||$109,678|
|2003||Carolina Dodge Dealers 400||28||10||Running/293||0||$103,158|
|2003||Mountain Dew Southern 500||20||12||Running/367||0||$109,503|
|2002||Carolina Dodge Dealers 400||36||36||Accident/225||7||$83,233|
|2002||Mountain Dew Southern 500||4||8||Running/367||0||$100,528|
|2001||%Carolina Dodge Dealers 400||14||16||Running/293||0||$53,735|
|2001||Pepsi Southern 500||33||4||Running/367||0||$93,900|
|2000||*Pepsi Southern 500||29||9||Running/328||0||$55,735|
|1999||*TranSouth Financial 400||10||6||Running/164||0||$44,240|
|1999||*Pepsi Southern 500||19||12||Running/270||0||$46,620|
* Race cut short due to weather.
% Qualifying canceled due to weather, starting position set via car owner points. Ã¿ Race length extended due to green-white-checker finish.