NDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tony Stewart savored Tuesday’s homecoming.
His tires worked properly in testing, Indianapolis’ oval absorbed the rubber like it should have and the two-time Cup champ even worked in a few one-liners about Kyle Busch.
No complaints, here.
After spending the morning on the 2.5-mile oval, Stewart and Busch again gave Goodyear’s tires high marks — a sign that that the manufacturer has found a solution to the problems that plagued the Brickyard 400 two years ago.
“It’s been pretty uneventful this morning. We’re already putting rubber down on the track and in the past that’s been a problem,” Stewart said during a lunch break. “Right now, everything seems to be pretty normal. The tire they brought here last year was no drama, and I think it will be that way again.”
Fans, race organizers and drivers couldn’t have asked for a stronger endorsement.
Stewart grew up in Indiana and raced in IndyCars before jumping to NASCAR. He has always maintained a fondness for the century-old track and considers his two wins at the Brickyard among his most prestigious racing achievements.
But when excessive tear wear turned the 2008 Brickyard into a series of 10- to 12-lap sprints, angry drivers and fans complained about Goodyear’s inability to get it right.
The tire manufacturer responded by going into full redevelopment mode and returned last year with a softer compound that now appears to be catching on at other tracks, too.
“I think they’re finding something that’s working at a lot of places,” Stewart said.
Fourteen drivers were scheduled to test Tuesday in calm, sunny conditions. Temperatures were forecast to reach the mid-60s, and drivers were expected to return for a second testing session Wednesday.
Stewart and Busch both gave the tires a thumbs up, and Busch alleviated any concern about the newest question: Will the new rear spoiler have any impact on the July 25 race?
If anything, the combination might make this year’s Brickyard more entertaining.
“It seems like the car is just a little more comfortable,” Busch said. “You can run up there, a little sideways, and drive right through it.”
Testing was only part of the reason Stewart and Busch hung out together in Indy.
The two also were promoting the annual Prelude to the Dream charity race on June 9 in Rossburg, Ohio. Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin and Busch will serve as captains of four teams that will compete to benefit children’s hospitals in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Charlotte, N.C., and Memphis, Tenn.
Forty-five percent of the proceeds will go to the winning team’s hospital, 25 percent will go to the runner-up, and the third- and fourth-place teams will each receive 15 percent.
The race will be held at Eldora Speedway, the dirt track that Stewart owns, and will be carried live on pay-per-view for $24.95.
“We’re always looking for a reason to go racing somewhere anyway,” Stewart said, drawing laughter, before Busch punched back, “Stewart is.”
“And this coming from a guy who races three days a week as it is now,” Stewart joked.
In fact, the two were already working overtime this week because of the two rain-delayed races in Texas.
Busch finished third in Monday’s Cup race, then won the Nationwide Series race — completing 800 miles on the day before he tested at Indy. Busch will test again Wednesday, then head to Talladega on Thursday.
“When I got to the hotel last night, I was ready to crash and I did, and I woke up a little tired this morning,” Busch said. “But I’m getting there.”
Stewart has another problem after being involved in a spectacular nine-car crash at Texas.
“I’m a little tender,” he said. “You know as I get older, I get a little more sore the next day.”
But at least the tires are working in Indy.
“So far, so good,” Busch said. “What we’re seeing right now is what we saw here last year.”