Outside the lines: Chelsea boys keep Tony Stewart on track

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Tony Stewart hopes to end his racing drought this weekend in Daytona, and two men from Chelsea will be there to do everything they can to help him.

Todd Foster and Michael Shelton will both help keep Stewart on the track this week as he will compete in Friday&8217;s Winn-Dixe 200 BUSCH race and Saturday&8217;s Pepsi 400 Nextel Cup race.

Foster, the rear tire changer for the Home Depot No. 20 Nextel Cup car, is used to helping Stewart win, as he has been part of both championship runs in 2002 and 2005. However, Shelton is preparing the Slim Jim No. 18 BUSCH Series car for Stewart this week for the first time since Shelton joined Joe Gibbs Racing in May.

Shelton said he is excited about Friday&8217;s race, because &8220;the way everybody talks, you just get the car close and (Stewart) handles the rest.&8221;

Foster agreed and offered Shelton some advice to help calm any nerves as the car gets its final tuneup this week.

&8220;It&8217;s not all car and aerodynamics. Tony has figured out how to work the draft (at Daytona) like Dale Earnhardt Sr. could,&8221; Foster said he&8217;s told Shelton. &8220;With him driving, your chances for a win are certainly better.&8221;

Shelton is still looking for his first win since making the leap from Josh Hamner&8217;s crew chief on the short track in Birmingham to the garage in North Carolina.

The race will mark the second time that the pair has worked for the same driver in the past decade, as both used to work with the late Charlie Bradberry of Chelsea.

It is through Bradberry that Foster met Shelton and that a friendship was made that led to them becoming teammates this spring.

When Foster left Bradberry Racing in 1998, Shelton took his place in the Chelsea shop. The two would talk when Foster returned to visit the talented young driver.

However, it was not until Bradberry&8217;s death last fall that the bond started growing.

&8220;We got even closer through Charlie,&8221; Foster said.

Now it is the memory of the hometown driver, who last raced on the national level at Martinsville in 2004, that carries the former Chelsea residents into a hopeful weekend.

Stewart finished 12th Saturday at New Hampshire and has yet to complete a Super Speedway race this season without a wreck