For all of Tony Stewart’s success, a NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Darlington, S.C., is something that has eluded him.
The Columbus native has 47 career Sprint Cup wins and three championships, and he’s won at all but two tracks currently on the Cup schedule. The other, Kentucky, is only 2 years old.
Stewart will try to cross Darlington off his list in tonight’s Southern 500.
“Darlington is such a tough track to get a handle on and to be good at all day,” Stewart said in a news release. “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.”
Stewart has won at Darlington — just not in the Sprint Cup series. He captured the Nationwide Series race 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 said having won a Nationwide Series race at Darlington doesn’t hurt his confidence to do well in the Sprint Cup race.
“Just because you won in a Nationwide Series car doesn’t guarantee success in the Cup car,” Stewart said. “We still have to go out and do our job on the Cup side. The cars drive totally different. We’ve got a lot more horsepower with the Cup cars than the Nationwide cars have, so the driving style is different. But still, we had a good run with the Nationwide car and then a good run in the Cup car, and I think that, as much as anything, gives you confidence.”
While he hasn’t won a Sprint Cup race at Darlington, Stewart has nine top-10 finishes in his 20 career starts there. He realizes a win would be a major accomplishment.
“A lot of it has to do with the history of the track,” Stewart said. “If you can say you won a race at Darlington, that’s a feather in your cap. That’s something to be proud of, knowing that you’re in a group of drivers with names like Pearson and (Richard) Petty, the pioneers of our sport who you hear stories about the races they ran there and the races they won there.”