Tony Stewart, who won the rain-shortened race in June at Michigan Speedway, still believes he is at a bit of a disadvantage on the 2-mile oval in Brooklyn, Mich.
The problem is that virtually every stock car race on the high-banked Michigan track comes down to fuel economy.
Bobby Labonte, Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and crew chief Jimmy Makar played the fuel mileage game in the first Michigan race in 1995 and won. They used the same strategy in the August race that year and did it again.
In Sunday's Pepsi 400, Stewart will be trying to become the first driver to sweep both races at the track since Labonte. But he knows it won't be easy.
"I haven't really been around long enough to know for sure, but it just seems like that's the magic word there -- fuel economy," said Stewart, the 1999 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. "You try to do everything you can to make the engine run as efficiently as possible all day."
That is exactly the kind of racing that the aggressive Stewart dislikes the most.
"Because I don't know how to save fuel, basically," he said. "I think the longer the race, the more you learn how to save fuel. But it seems like you've got two speeds -- fast and parked. So we'll just stick with the fast part right now and worry about the fuel mileage later."
NEW IRON MAN: Now that Terry Labonte's string of 655 consecutive starts is over, Dale Earnhardt is the man with the longest streak -- 634 heading into Sunday's race at Michigan Speedway.
But the seven-time Winston Cup champion would rather Labonte was still doing his iron man thing.
"Terry made a tough decision in Indy," Earnhardt said, referring to Labonte's decision to end his 21-year starting string by sitting out the Brickyard 400 because of the residual effects of a concussion. "I told him to take a lap and get out, but he knows what's best for him and his team. The main thing is that he gets healthy and back on the racetrack soon."
Labonte was hoping to return in time the Michigan race, but now is aiming to return in Bristol, Tenn., on Aug. 26. Todd Bodine, who subbed for Labonte in Indy, will be in the No. 4 Chevy in Michigan.
NO MORE NICE GUY: Richard Petty is getting mighty tired of talking about his Winston Cup team's hard luck season.
Both John Andretti and son Kyle Petty have struggled for Petty Enterprises this season, with Andretti 26th in the points and Petty 37th. They each have scored one top-10 so far this year.
"The luck has just been terrible this year," Andretti said. "The King (Richard Petty) got me after the race at Indianapolis and said, 'When we win one, even if every other car in the race drops out, the first guy who walks up and says we were lucky, I'm probably going to pop him one in the nose.'
"It's been that kind of year, and we're due for some pretty good luck now."
LOOKING AHEAD: After missing the last two races while recuperating from a concussion, Jeremy Mayfield is ready to begin racing again in Michigan.
Mayfield, who suffered a concussion when his car slid through oil and hit the wall during a practice session for the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, has won two races already this season and was well on his way to a top-10 finish in the points.
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