Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Tony’s Top 10 At PIR \\ No. 7

Phoenix Raceway remembers 10 of Tony Stewart's top moments in the Valley of the Sun before he takes his last full-time ride around the desert oval on Nov. 13, 2016 in the Can-Am 500, Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Semi-Final Race.

Tony's seventh moment at PIR looks back at his first-ever laps around the Phoenix oval in the premier NASCAR series.

Though a rookie in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Stewart was anything but when it came to racing in the Valley of the Sun.

Before making his Sprint Cup debut on Nov. 7, 1999, Stewart competed in every type of car on the one-mile oval – from USAC Midget and Silver Crown cars to Indy cars, Supermodifieds and NASCAR XFINITY Series cars.

His experience paid off, as the Sprint Cup “rookie” earned his first elite series win at PIR. Only Stewart would pull off such a feat in his first Sprint Cup race in Phoenix, winning the Checker Auto Parts/Dura Lube 500 in convincing fashion by leading a race-high 150 laps.

Starting 11th in the 43-car field, the 28-year-old Stewart took control of the race on the 159th of 312 laps around the one-mile oval. Stewart was able to hold off Mark Martin to the finish line by 2.081 seconds, a lead of nearly a full straightaway.

Though the race may or may not hold a place in Stewart’s personal record book, he forever etched his name in Phoenix Raceway history as he still holds the race record from that epic day with an average speed of 118.132 mph.

That year, he would go on to become the only driver in the history of NASCAR’s top division to win three races in a rookie year (Richmond, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami).

Stewart shed light on how he figured out the Phoenix track saying, “The balance of this track is tricky. It's hard to get both ends right. Normally if you're right on one end you've got something wrong with the other end. That's because the turns are so different. Making sure you keep the thing turning all day is probably the biggest thing. That's the way it was with all the other cars I've run here, making sure the car turned all day. If you can do that, you're going to have a pretty good day."

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