By Anthony Rhoads
ATLANTA ? The Joe Gibbs Racing team likes Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Since 1996, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart have won six races at AMS. Labonte has especially done well at the 1.54-mile track in Hampton. He's racked up five victories, including last year's spring race.
Stewart won the 2002 spring race at AMS.
"Bobby Labonte owns the place but I bought a piece of real estate there two years ago," Stewart said at the annual Atlanta Sports Council motorsports luncheon Thursday afternoon. "Everybody has a track that they really like and Joe Gibbs Racing has found a package they really like at Atlanta Motor Speedway."
Joe Gibbs Racing has not only done well at Atlanta but the team has produced two championships with Labonte winning the points title in 2000 and Stewart winning the championship in 2002.
This season, Joe Gibbs Racing is having to go without the full attention of Gibbs, who has gone back as head coach of the Washington Redskins. Stewart doesn't think that will affect the team that much this year.
"It really hasn't changed much," Stewart said. "His J.D. (who has been president of Joe Gibbs Racing for seven years) has done a great job and he knows what Joe Gibbs' vision is for the team."
Saying no to Hugh Hefner: During Thursday's luncheon, Stewart was asked about some of the ?coolest' things he has been able to do. He was in a Three Doors Down video and lists getting to meet Kid Rock and Diamond Rio as some of the most enjoyable things that he has done since he has become famous as a racecar driver. But when he got an invitation to go to the Playboy mansion, he didn't go.
"I was invited to the Playboy mansion but declined," he said. "I don't think Joe Gibbs would like that too much."
Thoughts on the new points system: Stewart said that the new points system isn't going to affect the week-to-week action on the tracks.
"It's just something we have to use to our advantage to win the championship," he said. "If you win races, the championship will take care of itself."
Last season, Stewart would not have qualified for the
?Chase for the Championship.' He was 14th in the points standings with 10 races to go in the season. Under the new system, the top 10 drivers and any driver who is within 400 points of the leader with 10 races to go in the season is eligible for the championship.
Spending time with the media: Thursday's luncheon was one of several media events Stewart attended Thursday.
"Everyone knows how much I like spending time with the media," he joked. Stewart has had some confrontations with the media in the past including an incident in 2002 where NASCAR fined him $10,000 for punching a photographer.