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Tony Stewart Racing Gears Up for Winternationals
INDIANAPOLISJones, Hines Drive Chevrolet to 2007 East Bay Winternationals A new era of non-winged sprint car racing will begin next week in Tampa, Fla., as Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) is poised to make its first sprint car start of the 2007 season. TSR drivers Levi Jones and Tracy Hines will enter the 30th annual East Bay Raceway Park Winternationals carrying the colors and utilizing the horsepower of the team's new sponsor - Chevrolet. While the "Bowtie Brigade" began the season with a victory in the 21st annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., the team will debut the new Chevrolet/Donovan/AllPro by Kistler powerplants in three days of competition at the 1/3-mile dirt oval in Tampa. This year's three-day event for the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits Tour 'N Topless Series marks the second year that non-winged sprint cars will take part in the Winternationals tradition. Jones is no stranger to the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits TNT Series, as he was the series' inaugural champion in 2005. He won four of five events to wrap up the title, including the $50,000 to win event at Southern Iowa Speedway in August 2005. The Winternationals will also mark another first in Jones' career, as it will be the first time he'll strap into the No. 20 TSR/Chevrolet entry. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, including J.J. Yeley, Jay Drake and Josh Wise, Jones will look to earn his first victory on the path to the next level of his career. The event will also mark Hines' return to full-time competition in the open-wheel racing ranks. Coming off a top-10 finish in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals a few weeks ago, Hines will seek his first victory of the 2007 season in his debut in the No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet entry. Next week's racing action will also see Hines compete in the Winternationals event for the first time. The 30th anniversary East Bay Raceway Park Winternationals will feature nine nights of open-wheel racing for the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits TNT wingless Sprint Cars, the winged 410-ci Sprint Cars and the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour Series. Racing action begins with the Ninth Annual "King of the 360s" Ronald Laney Memorial featuring the ASCoT Series Feb. 25-27. The Sprint Bandits TNT Series is scheduled to compete Jan. 29, Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. The Winged 410-ci Sprint Cars will wrap up the event Jan. 30, Feb. 1 and Feb. 3. The Sprint Bandits TNT finale Feb. 2 and the winged Sprint finale Feb. 3 are both lucrative ones, with a $10,000 payout to each winner. In addition, another $75,000 is available to the one driver that can win all three finales, including the Jan. 27 O'Reilly ASCoT Ronald Laney Memorial, the Feb. 2 Sprint Bandits TNT main event and the Feb. 3 winged 410-ci Sprint final. Any driver that wins two of the three finals will earn an extra $5,000. To be eligible for the bonus, drivers were required to be pre-registered for the event by Jan. 25.
Quotes from Levi Jones, driver of the No. 20 TSR/Chevrolet/Maxim:TonyStewart.com: Moving into the No. 20 Tony Stewart Racing car for the 2007 season is another big step in your career. How have you prepared yourself mentally for the attention that will be focused on your performance?
Levi Jones: "I'm really looking forward to stepping into the No. 20 this year. The car, the number and Tony Stewart Racing have developed a lot of history within the non-winged racing community. Anytime you take a step forward, you always feel added pressure. I put more pressure on myself to perform, probably more so than anyone else could. I think our team is going to help me have a very successful season. I'm glad to have Bubby Jones as my crew chief this year, and I know that he, Bobby Barth (crew chief for Tracy Hines) and Jay Drake (team manager) are going to give me great cars throughout the season. Our goal is to go out and win as many races as we can. If we're able to stay focused and produce consistent results, the rest will fall into place."
TonyStewart.com: Are you looking forward to introducing Chevrolet to the non-winged sprint car racing arena?
Levi Jones:"I think we're going to have some great results with the Chevrolet engines right out of the box. Our midget engines performed exceptionally well at the Chili Bowl and we know that Paul Kistler has been working hard to build us some great engines for our sprint car efforts. I drove in a couple of races at the end of last season with Kistler power and I was very pleased with they way they performed. The best test we could ask for is one that simulates competition conditions and I believe that we'll see some great results at East Bay next week." Quotes from Tracy Hines, driver of the No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/Maxim: TonyStewart.com: The 2007 season will be your first full-time season of sprint car racing in over three years. Will the time you spent competing in NASCAR assist you in this transition?
Tracy Hines: "As a driver, my experiences in different series have led me to understand that all the pieces need to fit together in order for the team to be complete. It's kind of like a puzzle. I've learned that attention to detail is second to none, and that sponsor relations and team communication is key. Competing in the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, I learned that teamwork is a key aspect of success. There's so much going on in the car that you have to rely on your team to aid you in getting the car to do what you want it to. As a driver, the best advantage you have is trust in your crew. Communication within our team is working well, and I believe that we'll be able to transfer that asset into success on the track." TonyStewart.com: Do you think Tony Stewart Racing will be able to carry the momentum of the Chili Bowl into the Winternationals?
Tracy Hines:"I'm really excited about going to Florida for our sprint car opener. Our team really seemed to click at the Chili Bowl. That is a huge part of a successful team. Our chemistry, combined with our Chevrolet engine program, will definitely give us an advantage as we begin to develop our sprint car program. Although I would have liked to contend for a win in the Chili Bowl, I think that the forward progress we did accomplish in the feature will give us a boost next week at East Bay. It's going to be a valuable event in terms of learning about the dynamics and progress of our team." For complete results from the 30th anniversary East Bay Raceway Park Winternationals, log on to www.eastbayracewaypark.com. For information regarding Stewart or Chevrolet, log on to www.tonystewart.com or www.chevrolet.com.