New Yankee Workshop
ATLANTA (June 27, 2007) – In 16 career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starts at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, Tony Stewart has racked up two wins, six top-threes, nine top-fives, 10 top-10s and has led a total of 764 laps. And before Stewart became the regular pilot of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet in 1999, he won an IRL IndyCar Series race at New Hampshire in 1998 after finishing second earlier that year in the NASCAR Busch Series race at the 1.058-mile oval.
Needless to say, Stewart has found a knack for navigating New Hampshire’s tricky confines. But he hasn’t done it alone. Much of Stewart’s success has come under the watchful eye and calculating mind of crew chief Greg Zipadelli.
Zipadelli is a native of Berlin, Conn., and he built his racing resume by wrenching NASCAR Modified Tour cars and NASCAR Busch East Series cars to victory lane at the “Magic Mile.” For Zipadelli, New Hampshire was his New Yankee Workshop, where he made the parts and pieces that propelled the likes of Mike Stefanik and Mike McLaughlin to New Hampshire’s winner’s circle before getting there with Stewart for his first New Hampshire win in July 2000.
Today, Stewart and Zipadelli enjoy the longest active driver/crew chief relationship in the Nextel Cup garage. And back on Zipadelli’s home turf with this weekend’s Lenox Industrial Tools 300, the tandem look to add to their history of rock-solid performances in the Granite State.
Explain a lap around New Hampshire.
“It’s a big motor deal. With the corners being so tight, you’ve got to put a lot of gear in the car to get it up off the corner. Forward bite is always an issue there too – trying to get the car to go forward. So, it’s hard to get up off the corners. Then you’ve got long straightaways where you can kind of relax a little bit. Coming into the corners, you use a lot of brake, and it’s hard to not only get the car stopped, but to get it to turn. Then you go through that challenge all over again.”
So, is a fast lap all about throttle control?
“No, not necessarily. A lot of times when you get in the gas, you’re able to stay in the gas. It’s just a matter of having a good enough handling car to where you can get into the corner, roll through the center, and then get in the gas and stay in the gas when you do get back in the throttle.”
While you’ve won at New Hampshire, you’ve also had races where you’ve struggled. How can one race weekend turn out great and another turn into one you’d rather forget?
“If you miss on something it can be a miserable day. It seems like you don’t see but three or four guys during the day that really hit it. That’s what makes a day there miserable when you miss. It’s just a matter of keeping a well-balanced car all day. And it seems like you can have bad track position, but if you have a car that drives well, you can drive your way to the front. It’s not a situation you cringe at if you have a good driving car.”
What are the key elements to a successful, long-term driver/crew chief relationship?
“I don’t know. Greg and I just get along really well. We understand each other. I’m hard to get to understand sometimes, but with Zippy, even though we may not have raced in the same backgrounds, a lot of the things that have happened with us have been very similar. It’s kind of like having a big brother that you learn from, whether it’s stuff that goes on at the race track or away from the race track. I lean on him quite a bit. We both have the same passion and desire to win, and I think that’s a pretty strong bond right there.”
GREG ZIPADELLI, crew chief on the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You’re from Berlin, Conn., and you spent a lot of time working on race cars at New Hampshire International Speedway long before you returned to the track as a Nextel Cup crew chief. Considering your ties to the track and the area in general, do you put more pressure on yourself to run well there?
“Yes, because I love the race track. I always have. But I don’t think that I want to win there any more or less than I do any other place.”
When you do win there, does it feel like things have come full circle for you?
“Yes, absolutely. I think that it’s a tough place to win at. There’s not been a lot of winners. It’s one of those deals where everything has to be good. Your car has to be good. Your pit stops have to be good. You’re driver has got to be ‘on.’ That to me is what’s exciting about it. It’s kind of like road racing or racing at short tracks where it seems like there’s a lot involved rather than just having a really fast car at Michigan or something like that.”
When you go back to New Hampshire, do you look back and think about how far you’ve come in such a short amount of time? Or does it seem like things have progressed as you imagined they would?
“You really don’t have much time to think about that stuff. I’m just thankful to be where I’m at. I’m enjoying what I do. I love what I did back then. I was fortunate to have some opportunities to move up and that’s what you need. You need good opportunities. I think I did a good job when I was there doing the Busch North stuff and that’s what allowed me to get the job and be where I am today.”
Does your time spent in what is now known as the Busch East Series seem like eons ago, or does it seem like it was yesterday?
“Eleven years ago seems like a long time. At the pace we run today and the schedule we have, the places we go, the tests, and the amount of days we work, I almost can’t remember a lot of it.”
Do you feel like you’re working in dog years?
“I’m pretty confident that I am.”
How much has the sport changed since you were a crew chief in Busch East?
“There’s no working on the car anymore. It’s all paper. It’s all meetings. It’s dealing with people. It’s planning. I still do set-up sheets and things of that nature, but I don’t get much time to spend on the floor with what’s going on. There’s something that always seems like it’s going on at Joe Gibbs Racing that I’m involved with, whether it be our future stuff, the other teams and things of that nature. We stay really busy when it comes to administrative-type stuff right now.”
Is that just the nature of the beast nowadays?
“Yes. It’s just time consuming. The problem is that there’s so much that you have to do and we’re going so much that when you are at the shop, you have to do the administrative stuff. If we had more time, I could spend more time on the car, but I’ve still got paper work, set-up sheets, meetings, planning, body builds, all that stuff that you have to do. Lately we’ve been home three days, sometimes two days because of testing, because of the rain, those types of things. You kind of adjust and count on other people to do the hands on stuff.”
Speaking of tests, you tested at The Milwaukee Mile on June 12 to get ready for New Hampshire. Does Milwaukee have some of the same characteristics like New Hampshire? And because of long straightaways and tight corners, are you seeing some things that will be unique to the Car of Tomorrow?
“We were (running at Milwaukee) like we were in Phoenix when we ran decent all day. We had a new car (at the test). We built a new snout, so I just wanted to take it and make sure there was nothing different and it wouldn’t react differently when we got to Loudon where we would be chasing something. We took the car we ran Martinsville with and the new car – the car that we ran at Bristol and Darlington. It’s a good car. We brought that to Milwaukee and that’s what’s going to be our primary. We just took it to run three-quarters of a day worth of stuff – parts and pieces. I wouldn’t say we went up there and tuned very hard on it for Loudon just because (the tracks) are different.”
Has the Car of Tomorrow changed the racing any? You used to manipulate body panels and aero-stuff, but now it seems like you’re in a box as to what you can do. Does that mean you have to spend more time working under the hood?
“Yes. For sure. It’s just really hard to get these templates to fit the tolerances that they give us. That’s kind of what we’re working on is trying to get the cars consistent and get our body builds the same. There isn’t a lot you can do. The only thing you can do is build the best car we can and just try and duplicate them. There are a lot of suspension things and other things that we’re doing this year that we didn’t do in the past because of the rules.”
Chassis No. 157:
This Car of Tomorrow (CoT) chassis saw its first action at Bristol, where it qualified fourth and led four times for a race-high 257 laps before finishing 35th, as a broken fuel pump cable on lap 289 thwarted its run. Prior to the Bristol race, its only track time came during the Car of Tomorrow test at Bristol March 1-2. Its second career start came at Darlington, where Chassis No. 157 started 26th and rallied to a top-10 finish. In preparation for its third career start at New Hampshire, the No. 20 team tested Chassis No. 157 at The Milwaukee Mile June 12.
Joe Gibbs Racing New Hampshire Anecdotes:
Joe Gibbs Racing has two wins at New Hampshire:
2005 July race was won by Stewart
2000 July race was won by Stewart
Joe Gibbs Racing has two poles at New Hampshire:
2005 September race pole was won by Stewart
2000 September race pole was won by former Joe Gibbs Racing driver Bobby Labonte
In the seven CoT races prior to New Hampshire, Joe Gibbs Racing has led 979 of the 2,593 laps available (37.8 percent), the most in Nextel Cup. Hendrick Motorsports is next best with 616 laps, 363 fewer laps led than Joe Gibbs Racing.
“You Must Be a Local” – Six members of The Home Depot Racing Team are from New England:
Front Tire Changer and Mechanic Ira-Jo Hussey from Manchester, N.H.
Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli from Berlin, Conn.
Car Chief and Brake Specialist Jason Shapiro from Essex, Conn.
Jack Man and Mechanic Jason Lee from Willimantic, Conn.
Shock Specialist Dave Hansen from York, Maine
PR Director Mike Arning from Lunenburg, Mass.
Notes of Interest:
The Lenox Industrial Tools will mark Stewart’s 301st career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series start and his 17th career Nextel Cup start at New Hampshire.
Stewart is currently sixth in the Nextel Cup point standings with 2,058 points, 380 markers behind series leader Jeff Gordon as a result of his sixth-place finish Sunday at Sonoma. The result gained Stewart one position in the Nextel Cup point standings. At this point last year Stewart was seventh in the standings with 2,012 points, 422 markers behind series leader Jimmie Johnson. Stewart has scored 46 more points this year than he did last year heading into the 17th race of the season.
Stewart has two Nextel Cup victories (July 2000 and July 2005) and one IRL IndyCar win (1998) at New Hampshire. And in the NASCAR Busch Series, Stewart earned a second-place finish in the 1998 Gumout 200 at New Hampshire.
Stewart has six top-threes, nine top-fives, 10 top-10s and has led a total of 764 laps at New Hampshire, second only to Jeff Gordon’s total of 1,104 laps led at New Hampshire. Stewart has only two DNFs (Did Not Finish) at New Hampshire (Spring 2002 & Fall 2004).
“Wicked Good at New Hampsha in 2005” – In his two Nextel Cup races at New Hampshire in 2005, where Stewart finished first in the July race and second in the September race, he led 405 of the 600 laps available (67.5 percent). Stewart won his second Nextel Cup championship in 2005.
Stewart won his ninth career Nextel Cup pole at New Hampshire in September 2005. Stewart has 10 poles altogether, with the last one coming 57 races ago at Martinsville in October 2005.
Home Depot store No. 6617, located in Glendora, Calif., will be represented on the lower rear quarterpanel of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet during the Lenox Industrial Tools 300. Store No. 6617 was judged to be the outstanding store of the past week, thereby earning its place on the No. 20 car.
NASCAR Busch Series Notes of Interest:
Stewart will make a return to the NASCAR Busch Series on Saturday driving the No. 33 Old Spice Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc., (KHI) in the Camping World 200 at New Hampshire. It will be Stewart’s second career Busch Series start at New Hampshire. His previous result came in 1998 when he started 13th and finished second in a Joe Gibbs Racing-prepared Pontiac. The Camping World 200 will mark Stewart’s seventh race as part of his 12-race Busch Series schedule for 2007. Stewart has a total of two wins, four poles, 17 top-fives and 23 top-10s in 71 Busch Series starts.
2 starts for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2007 (finished 11th at spring California; finished 10th at spring Atlanta)
4 starts for Kevin Harvick Inc. in 2007 (finished 8th at spring Daytona; finished 3rd at Las Vegas; finished 2nd at spring Talladega to KHI teammate Bobby Labonte; finished seventh at Darlington)
1 start for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2006 (finished 2nd at Fall Texas)
1 start for Dale Earnhardt Inc., in 2006 (finished 16th at Fall Charlotte)
10 starts for Kevin Harvick Inc., in 2006 (won at spring Daytona; 12th at Las Vegas; led 25 laps at Talladega before a crash left him with a DNF, finished 39th; led 12 laps at Darlington before a crash with a lapped car dropped him to 29th; DNF at Charlotte, finished 42nd; 12th at Daytona; ninth at Chicagoland; 11th at Michigan; sixth at fall California; fourth at Kansas)
11 starts for Kevin Harvick Inc. in 2005 (won at spring Daytona; 2 poles – California & Watkins Glen; 2nd at Atlanta; 4th at Watkins Glen; 5th at Phoenix; 15th at Spring Richmond; 23rd at Indianapolis; 5 DNFs – California, Texas, Talladega, Charlotte and Richmond)
1 start for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005 (crashed while contending for the lead at Fall Charlotte)
1 start for Richard Childress Racing in 2004 (2nd at Spring California)
1 start for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004 (led a race-high 115 laps at Kansas but crashed while leading last lap – finished 25th)
2 starts for Kevin Harvick Inc., in 2004 (5th at Spring Charlotte and 11th at Atlanta)
1 start for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2003 (led a race-high 46 laps at Michigan but finished 11th when rain cut race short)
22 starts for Joe Gibbs Racing in 1998 (2 poles – Spring & Fall Rockingham; 5 top-five finishes)
5 starts for Joe Gibbs Racing in 1997 (1 top-five – 3rd at Fall Charlotte; two top-10s – Fall Charlotte and Fall Rockingham)
9 starts for Harry Ranier in 1996 (best start and finish were at Spring Bristol, 7th and 16th, respectively)
In the four Busch Series starts Stewart has made for KHI this year, he has finished in the top-10 each time, with two of those finishes being top-three efforts – the most recent of which was second at Talladega, where Stewart was runner-up to his KHI teammate Bobby Labonte.
In the six Busch Series starts Stewart has made this year – four for KHI and two for Joe Gibbs Racing – he has finished in the top-10 five times. The lone finish outside the top-10 was an 11th-place result at California.