Of all the racetracks currently on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, Columbus native Tony Stewart has been to Victory Lane in a Cup race in all but two.
One of those is Kentucky Speedway, which has only been on the schedule since 2011. The other is Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway, which hosts this week’s Sprint Cup race Sunday.
“Races at Darlington have been pretty tough for me, personally,” Stewart said in a news release. “We’ve had some decent runs there, but it just seems like you really have to put everything together the whole day.”
Stewart did win a NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington in 2008.
“With the rich heritage and history at Darlington — to win there and be the first guy to win after they resurfaced it — it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe,” Stewart said. “It’s just cool to win at Darlington. You think back to guys like David Pearson who were so good there. This series is just so deep in history, and this is one of those tracks where the history goes as deep as NASCAR does. To finally get a win at Darlington was a huge honor for me.”
Stewart hopes that win will help for what he wants to accomplish when he returns for the Southern 500?
“It doesn’t hurt,” Stewart said. “Just because you won in an Xfinity Series car doesn’t guarantee success in the Cup car. We still have to go out and do our job on the Cup side. The cars drive totally different. But I think that, as much as anything, it gives you confidence.”
In Sprint Cup races at Darlington, Stewart has finished in the top 10 in 12 of 22 career starts. That includes a pair of third-place finishes in 2009 and 2011.
“If you can say you won a race at Darlington, that’s a feather in your cap,” Stewart said. “That’s something to be proud of, knowing that you’re in a group of drivers with names like Pearson and Petty — the pioneers of our sport who you hear stories about the races they ran there and the races they won there.
“Darlington is such a tough track to get a handle on and to be good at all day,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of guys who have a lot of success there. You see only a handful of guys who religiously run well there. That just shows you how difficult Darlington is to get a handle on. If you can have a good day and win there, it’s a track that’s like winning at Bristol. It’s the same type of feeling – knowing that you conquered something that’s very hard to obtain.”