The past several times they raced in Atlanta, Tony Stewart and his NASCAR competitors have been fighting for positions in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
This year, however, the Atlanta event has been moved to the second race of the season. Drivers will compete in the Folds of Honor 500 at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Stewart, a Columbus native, isn’t approaching Atlanta any differently now that it isn’t the next-to-last event before the Chase.
“I know some people think that drivers try harder at some races than others, but we don’t,” Stewart said in a news release. “We’re racers, and when we’re on the track, we race. I can tell you that every time I get in my Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy, I’m doing it because I want to win, whether it’s the first race on the schedule or the last.
“Sometimes there are circumstances that prevent you from being able to do that, but I look at this weekend’s race no different than I do a race 20 weeks from now,” he said. “We’re going out there to try to win, just like every other race.”
After starting seventh in Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500, an accident after only 72 laps left Stewart in 42nd place. He’s looking to put that race behind him.
“What you do at Atlanta is solely based on what you and your team can do with your racecar, not what drafting line you’re in or how the car behind you is going to affect your next move,” Stewart said. “Once we get away from Daytona, everything kind of settles into a groove. We’re back in the weekly grind.
“Atlanta is a track where you don’t really worry about what everybody else’s car is doing,” he said. “You worry about what your car is doing. You’re racing the racetrack. You’re not racing everybody else. It’s a good opportunity to get back into the swing of things.”
Stewart is looking forward to Sunday’s race at the 1.54-mile oval.
“I like racing there,” Stewart said. “It’s definitely a driver’s track. That’s why we love coming to Atlanta. I hope they never repave it. If they have to repave it, it will be out of necessity, not because of desire from us.
“That’s what makes this place fun is the fact that you’re going to move around from the bottom to the top every segment of the race,” he said. “You are, at some point, going to have to move around and try to find a spot to make your car better. That’s what makes it so much fun being there.”