NEW YORK -- Tony Stewart once sealed parking lots to pay his bills. He also used to punch a time clock at a machine shop and drove a tow truck.
A $3,500 check for finishing second in a Silver Crown race for the USAC Series changed all that.
''I was sitting there at that drill press one day and I was trying to figure out how many $5 hours I had to work to make $3,500,'' Stewart said. ''I thought when I drive race cars I can get up at noon, I'm at the pit gate by 4 (p.m.), I'm done at midnight and I'm still wide awake. If I can do this three times a week and pay my bills, I don't have to get up at 7:30 and drive to work five days a week.
''It didn't take me too long to figure out I was too lazy to work.''
A self-proclaimed ''small-town guy,'' Stewart has been the toast of New York all week. He made a pit stop at the White House on Monday to meet Pres ident Bush, and since he's ar rived at New York, he's been on NBC's Today, Live with Regis and Kelly and FSN's Best Damn Sports Show Period. He's visited the New York police and fire departments, and was guest of honor for lunch at Club 21 and dinner at Sardis. He also rang the final bell to close the New York Stock Exchange.
While at the fire department, he and crew chief Greg Zipadelli swapped shirts and hats with firefighters. Then they got the biggest treat of the week (besides the $4 million) by sliding down the fire pole and turning on the truck siren.
And if that weren't enough, Stewart also has been busy with photo shoots at Times Square and Park Avenue.
FILLING IN THE HOLES: Chip Ganassi made a significant hire this week when he brought Jimmy Elledge on board to be the new crew chief for his No. 41 Target Dodge.
That leaves one ques tion: Who will drive the car?
Ganassi fired Jimmy Spencer in the final month of the season. The driving job with Ganassi is the final piece of the employment puzzle for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Bobby Hamilton, 45, reportedly is the front-runner, but sponsor Target seems more in terested in a younger driver like Hank Parker Jr.
Also on the job front, Casey Atwood was released from Ev ern ham Motorsports and Mike Beam was hired as Jeff Green's new crew chief at Richard Childress Racing.
Atwood has an offer to drive for Brewco Motorsports on the Busch Series if car owner Cla rence Brewer can find a sponsor.
U.S. WINS NATION'S CUP: Dri vers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were the headliners for the U.S. race team at the Na tion's Cup championships, but AMA Superbike champion Colin Edwards carried most of the load.
Edwards scored two of Am erica's victories in a 3-1 win over host Spain.
''He was smooth all day and hardly made a mistake,'' Johnson said of the motorcycle rider.
The competition pits drivers against one another in a variety of racing situations. Edwards beat 250cc Moto GP champion Marco Melandri twice in motorcycle races; Gordon beat Euro pean touring car champion Fab rizio Giovanardi in a car race; Johnson lost to World Rally driver Renato Travaglia in an off-road car race.
The American team eliminated France in the semifinals.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.
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