INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 23, 2004 -- Quotes from 1996-97 Indy Racing League and 2002 NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who suited up for a possible Bump Day qualifying attempt May 23 for the 88th Indianapolis 500 in an A.J. Foyt Racing entry. Stewart...
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 23, 2004 -- Quotes from 1996-97 Indy Racing League and 2002 NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who suited up for a possible Bump Day qualifying attempt May 23 for the 88th Indianapolis 500 in an A.J. Foyt Racing entry. Stewart decided not to make an attempt with about 35 minutes remaining in qualifying, citing contractual obligations:
(You're stirring up a lot of interest, but I can see in your eyes you really want to be in that race car): "Trust me, yeah, I want to be in it more than you can imagine right now. When A.J. called me this morning, I thought he was joking at first but (with) the amount of phone calls he made, I noticed he was pretty serious. It started out just making a couple laps, and then it was, hey, we can get this thing in the show. When you saw how excited the fans were to see us get ready, I wanted to put this thing in the show. I thought, 'Shoot, I haven't really prepared for it, but I can do this.' I'm in as good a shape this year as I have been as far as being behind the wheel, so I could start this thing and I guarantee you I could run in the top 10 running for A.J. Foyt this year, but we need to just do it the right way."
(You came in here without any preparation, but what about next year? Could this fuel some excitement?): "I could promise you, I've got the fever again now, so if there's any way I can work with Joe Gibbs and Home Depot and get something done for next year, we got a good start if we can get started today on that for next year."
(Everybody speculated that you were just here having some fun, but isn't this like any situation with a race car where you get out there rolling and don't want to stop?): "I think everybody knows A.J. Foyt, and everybody knows me. I think at first it started out as kind of a joke that, 'Hey, we might go out there and run a couple laps and stir everything up a bit,' but then we got talking about it and we got our hopes up. A.J.'s emotional about this place; I'm emotional about this place, (and) nothing would make him happier than putting three cars in the race this year. Trust me, we wouldn't have went through all this trouble and had the crew guys work as hard as they've done today, and get Simpson to get gear. I didn't bring anything up today; I just came with my friends. Didn't have any gear, but everybody at Simpson Race Products thrashed and got my helmets ready and got prepared to go out and do this. This wasn't a joke, it was something A.J. and I took serious today."
(So it is officially off?): "Yeah, according to Cary Agajanian, our attorney, legally I can't do it. The groups of people that called him, they weren't furious and 100 percent against us doing it. They wanted to see me do it. There's a couple variables in the equation that kept us from doing it legally, so if we do it, we've got to do it the right way."
(About the fan support): "I just wish I could run for these people back here. There's a few people who stood out here in the rain when they found out we were going to do this. There's no better feeling than coming back home to Indiana and having the support from these race fans today."
(About the reasons he couldn't run today): "We got a lot of great people that support our program on the stock-car side, and the two groups who called wanted us to do this, but there are conflicts with their companies."
(So this was a legitimate effort?): "We had you guys fooled. It really wasn't a real serious deal when I got here, but more A.J. and I talked, and the more the guys got excited, you know how A.J. and I are emotional about this place. We love the Speedway. I'm burning up. I'm sweating. I could be sitting up in a suite hanging out and drinking beer."
(Are you serious about putting an effort together for next year?): "I'm going to talk to Joe (Gibbs) and Home Depot and see if I can start working on something. I pretty much made the commitment to those guys that I wasn't going do anything until I decided I was done with the (NEXTEL) Cup Series, but you know, they've always been supportive. That's the great thing about Joe Gibbs and Home Depot. They've always said if I wanted to come back and run Indy, that they're behind me 100 percent. I firmly believe their heart is where my heart is, and they want me to be happy and be able to come back here and run Indy. I'm sure they've got mixed emotions today, too. They'd like to see me go out there and run some quick laps."
(Do you have the bug again?): "It's like jungle fever. I've got it bad. I don't think this can be cured in a couple of weeks."