NASCAR's Driving Force

How Tony Stewart became the sport's top racer by (almost) learning how to take things easy

In NASCAR country, folks say Tony Stewart's return to his idyllic hometown has made him a better competitor. The compact, 5-ft. 9-in. driver abandoned the Charlotte, N.C., area--the roaring capital of stock-car racing--and returned to cozy Columbus, Ind. Sure enough, with just three races to go, he was the leader in this year's Chase for the Nextel Cup, stock-car racing's grand prize. What has changed? Well, he spends a lot more time hanging with his friends and being a good neighbor. In short, the locals say, he has mellowed out.

Don't buy it. Here's what Mr. Mellow had to say after...

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