Regis Laconi puts his Ducati superbike to work in Australia.
Tony Stewart isn't coming off his finest effort, finishing two laps down in 24th place at Bristol Motor Speedway.
But Stewart could right his ship in a hurry this week at Texas Motor Speedway, where drivers expect a more noticeable second groove to allow for true two-ride racing for the first time since the surface was repaved in 2001.
That fact, along with the aero and tire changes this season, should make Sunday's Samsung/Radio Shack 500 one of the more intriguing Cup races Texas has seen.
Certainly, Las Vegas and Atlanta showcased the new changes this season, and Stewart finished third and seventh, respectively, at those tracks.
It all could lead to Stewart's first victory of 2004, if he and his team can get the setup right.
"It hasn't been a good track for us historically," Stewart said. "It just seems like Texas is one of those places where we haven't figured out how to be a top-flight car. We've never set the world on fire at Texas, but we have had some solid runs."
Stewart's best Texas finish was fifth in 2002, when he led 15 laps after starting 29th. But last season, he suffered an engine problem and his day ended early.
The Home Depot team tested at Nashville Superspeedway last week with an eye toward perfecting its Texas setup.
Crew chief Greg Zipadelli said the practice proved valuable in the end. "I'm pretty happy because it was a good test. We went there and had some lows, but then all of a sudden we found some stuff and it really picked our speed up, which made the car drive a lot better -- the way Tony wanted it to drive."
Stewart, a former IRL champion, has experienced Texas Motor Speedway from the open-wheel vantage point as well as the stock car. He said the two experiences were different, since the IRL cars don't lift off the throttle there, but one thing at Texas remains the same: Keep your line.
"I never looked at it as a treacherous race track," he said. "For some reason, it seemed that the track's transitions were very line-sensitive. The entries and exits to the corners are very tricky, and that's what makes Texas difficult.
"You just have to hit your marks every lap," he added. "Texas doesn't leave a whole lot of room for error."
Currently fourth in the Nextel Cup standings, Stewart himself doesn't have a ton of room for error with pole-master Ryan Newman sitting just 16 points behind.
Which is why Zipadelli and crew have been fretting over camber adjustments, trying to get Stewart's car set up for Texas to be as assuredly grippy as it seems to be at Atlanta. The team believes it has made crucial front-end adjustments that will help.
In any event, Stewart believes there could be more passing at Texas this time around.
"I honestly think the groove will move up a little bit this year to where it'll be a little wider and you'll have more room to get a run on a guy," he said. "But as the tires wear out and grip goes away, drivers will make mistakes and a car's handling will become more important. And when a guy makes a mistake, you need to be there to capitalize on it."
On his F1 test:
"It is very different and very cool. ... It is just overwhelming the way it stops. I think the brakes are probably 100 times better and the car handles a lot better."
On latest Bristol win:
"This one by far has got to be the sweetest because of what we had to overcome. Our engine had about 1,000 RPM less all day today ... and I just couldn't get the car to handle right. It's just unreal."
After narrowly losing to Busch:
"Doggone, man. We didn't need those last cautions. I was just about to pass him that one time. Man, I wanted that bad. So close."
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