NASCAR & Auto Racing

Pressure vs. desire

INDIANAPOLIS - Tony Stewart wants to win Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard every bit as much as he did when he won NASCAR's annual Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2005 and 2007.

Where there's a world of difference now, though, is that with those victories behind him this time it's more about "want to" than a sense of "have to" for the Indiana native.

"There's no doubt about it," Stewart said. "Every year that I went there, whether it was an IndyCar or a stock car and had not won there yet, that pressure just kept building."

After winning an IndyCar championship without winning the Indianapolis 500, Stewart moved to stock cars and began coming to the historic 2.5-mile track for Cup races in 1999.

As years passed without his winning here, though, NASCAR week at Indy became a week filled with equal parts anticipation and stress for the resident of Columbus, Ind.

That all changed, though, when he scored an emotional win in 2005. When he won the Allstate 400 again last year, Stewart said he was able to enjoy that win in a different way.

"The first year it was more of just a huge weight lifted off our shoulders," he said. "We had accomplished a lifelong dream. Last year it was a chance that we really got to enjoy it with our team ... vs. just the emotional drain of just finally accomplishing a goal like the first time."

This year he's enjoying a chance to make a third Indy win in four years his first in what will be his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing.

"Each time that you've won here, I think it makes it easier," Stewart said. "I don't want you to confuse the desire of winning vs. the pressure of winning. The pressure goes away, but the desire is still there.

"If anything, it makes it easier to focus on what you're trying to do and what you're trying to accomplish because you don't sit there and wonder all weekend what would it be like to win. You know what that feeling is like and you know what to do to accomplish that goal, and it's just a matter of going out and doing the work to accomplish it."

Stewart comes to Indianapolis this year feeling different pressures.

He has got his future to think and talk about - Stewart announced two weeks ago that he'll be a driver and co-owner for Stewart-Haas Racing next year and on Friday will announce his car number and sponsors for 2009.

His teammate for next year is still to be determined, as are many other details about what's ahead next season.

At the same time there's still work to be done this year. Heading into this weekend he is 10th in the Sprint Cup standings and has to at least be thinking about keeping his No. 20 Toyotas inside the top 12 to make the Chase.

"I can't say that it's a big weight lifted off my shoulders," Stewart said of the decisions he's already made. "It's like you just switched weights is all you did. We took one off our shoulders and added another one on.

"If I wasn't excited about doing this, I think that would probably bother me a lot. But, I mean, I'm excited about it and I'm excited about all the pressure that we have going into next year now.

"It's something that we've been looking forward to."

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