KYLE PETTY, FOUNDER, VICTORY JUNCTION GANG CAMP: ON THE CHARITY ASPECT OF TONY STEWART'S PLANS TO COMPETE AT BOTH IMS AND LMS NEXT WEEKEND "We were extremely excited about this. We were shooting a Coke commercial here at the speedway two...
KYLE PETTY, FOUNDER, VICTORY JUNCTION GANG CAMP:
ON THE CHARITY ASPECT OF TONY STEWART'S PLANS TO COMPETE AT BOTH IMS AND LMS NEXT WEEKEND
"We were extremely excited about this. We were shooting a Coke commercial here at the speedway two or three weeks ago and it all came together. Tony said, 'We need to talk to you about a couple things that we've got going.' We kind of danced around it that day and really didn't get up with each other. But Tony had come up with the idea of saying, 'Hey, I'm going to run Indy and I'm going to run Charlotte. Let's do something to help the camp. I think the biggest key to that, from my perspective was, that Tony has reached out to the camp. I think a lot of people look at this camp and say, 'OK, it's a Petty thing.' We don't want it to be a Petty thing. We want it to be a NASCAR thing and encompass a lot of the other teams, a lot of the other drivers, a lot of the other sponsors.
"When they laid it out for us I was speechless. It's phenomenal. To be a part of what Tony is trying to do or what he has done before and what he is doing this time. It's pretty special for us to be involved with it with the camp. We're looking at a five-year plan. We hope to have the camp open by the summer of 2004. It's about a $25 million to $30 million project. We're in the fundraising stage and part of the fundraising stage - the part that is important to us -- is the awareness and to get that awareness out. We've been able to do it in the Winston Cup circle - to be able to let people in the garage area and let Winston Cup fans know. But doing at Indy and on these networks on the same day is going to be huge for this camp.
"I don't think there are words in my heart or in my vocabulary to thank Tony personally, and Home Depot and Target Chip Ganassi Racing, because I think this goes a long way towards bringing our camp up and bringing out to the public and letting them know what is going on. This goes a long way towards making part of our dreams come true.
"Thank you (Tony) very much for that. I appreciate it more than you'll ever know - and to Home Depot and Target Chip Ganassi Racing, to those guys, too, because this is a phenomenal way for us to kick off our fundraising efforts."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON THE CHARITY ASPECT
"It's great for me to be a part of it. When we decided we were going to do this 'double' again, it was kind of a short notice type of situation. But we looked at it and decided that we didn't just want to do 'double duty' again. We wanted to do something a little different and something special. Like Kyle said, we threw around the idea during a Coke shoot here at the track not too long ago.
"It's just something that makes you feel proud. There are so many people in this sport - the race fans, the sponsors - so many people that help us do what we're doing. Home Depot and Target Chip Ganassi Racing have given me a great opportunity to do this 'double,' but I wanted to do something where I could give something back. Spending the time that I've spent with Kyle, it was obvious and immediate, as far as what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do this."
"I think it's great. To be able to raise the money that we're going to be able to raise for the camp is definitely going to be a positive deal. It's not just about trying to go out and win two races anymore. Now, we want to make sure we stay on the lead lap in both races for the whole night. Obviously we want to win both races, but there is an added reason to stay on the lead lap all day long. It's just an added bonus and an added incentive to do well. Not that we need an incentive, but it's nice to do something positive. The Pettys are a great family that do some great things, so it's my honor to be a part of what they're doing. I'm just glad I can do something to help out."
WAS THIS A DIFFICULT DECISION TO DO THIS AGAIN?
"The reason we decided to do it was this same intentions that had a couple years ago. We want to win Indy. You always hear people say that hindsight it 20/20. Well, after doing it the first time we realized that we made some mistakes and there were some things that we could have done a lot better. But there were some things that we did right, also. We're trying to make the things that we did right better and at the same time, make sure that the things that we did wrong, make sure that we do those things the right way this time. It really wasn't a hard decision. It was just a matter of making sure it was the right team."
HOW MUCH MORE DEMANDING WILL IT BE TO TRY TO WIN BOTH RACES COMPARED TO 1999?
"If we can win the '500' I can promise you I'm going to be on such a high that these guys down here won't stand a chance. I don't know how you could come down here and be more excited about running a 600-mile race after winning a 500-mile race in Indianapolis. If we're fortunate enough to do that or if we have a good day up there at all, I'm going to be on a pretty good high when I get down here. With what we're doing together, I'm going to be ready go when I get down here and ready to go out and try to win this race."
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF IT RAINS AT INDY OR IF THINGS GET DELAYED AT ALL THERE?
"It depends on what time it is. We've got a deadline time of what time I'm getting out of the car and we're not telling everybody what time that is because we don't want everybody looking at their watch. We know what time it is. At that point, that's when I've got to get out of the car. I've got to make sure that I get out of here in time to start this race. If that time comes around, everybody involved in the organization - Chip Ganassi and Gibbs and Home Depot and Target - everybody knows what time I have to be out of that race car. If weather becomes a factor, we know that ahead of time. We're going to be watching the weather four of five days out and starting to try to plan different scenarios. We've got all the logistics done. There are eight different scenarios they've played out and have it down to the minute. Depending on what hand is dealt to us on race day up there, we've got a plan for it. If it means that somebody else will have to get in the car (at Indy), that's what we'll do."
EVEN IF YOU'RE LEADING THE INDY 500?
"I'll have to. That's the commitment I gave to Joe Gibbs Racing and Home Depot. Trust me, they did not have to let me go up to Indianapolis and do this. They did that because they understand how big of a dream it is for me to go win Indy.
"But there were conditions that had to be met and they're not unreasonable conditions at all. To allow a driver to go run another race the same day that you have the longest race of the year on the Winston Cup schedule, I think they're pretty generous in letting me do that. Saying that at a certain time I have to be out of the [IRL] car to make sure that I start this race on time, I don't think that is unreasonable."
IS THERE A LIST OF BACKUP DRIVERS FOR INDY IF YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR?
"I think Chip is working on that right now, more than anybody is. To me, if I have to get out of it, I really don't care who gets in it. I'm a little on the selfish side, I guess, from that standpoint. Whoever he gets to drive that car will do a great job, I'm sure. Chip is not just going to throw somebody in at the last minute. I'm sure he has already thought through the details of who that will be."
DO YOU THINK THAT YOU'LL ALWAYS HAVE THE URGE TO DO THIS UNTIL YOU WIN THE 500?
"I have nothing against people that eat a lot of health food and like to stay healthy, but I like my pizzas and burgers. To do this every year, I'd kill Al [Shufford] if I had to do this three or four years consecutive, probably. He is a tolerant person to deal with me and what I've wanted to eat and what he has given me to eat.
"I want to win Indy. The only reason I did it this year again was because I thought it was the right opportunity with the right team to do it. The only way I'll do it down the road if it (winning) doesn't happen this year is to make sure it's an opportunity just like the one I've been given. But at the same time, I think we've got to look at what scenarios are being played out on the Winston Cup side, too. I don't want to jeopardize anything that we've got going on here to do that. My full-time job is in Winston Cup right now and I have no plans of altering that at all. I don't want to do anything that is going to hurt what I'm doing in Winston Cup right now. But by the time my career is over with, I hope to have had the opportunity and hopefully have won that race once."
WHAT IF THE START OF THE INDY 500 IS DELAYED?
"That is one of the scenarios that we have. There is a certain start time and if it doesn't' start by a certain time, then I'm not even getting in the car. We know how long it takes to run a 500-mile race at Indianapolis. We know pretty much what the start time has to be for us to be able to get out of the car at the right time. If we have a big delay like that, then I'll be down in Charlotte in time for the drivers meeting and won't have to start last then."
WHAT ABOUT THE INDY 500 BANQUET ON THE SAME NIGHT AS THE '600?'
"Don't worry about it. We'll worry about the first goal first, the second goal second and we'll accomplish the third one whenever we get to it. The first two are the important ones right now. I'm not one for banquets anyway. They can send me the ring in the mail if they want. I don't care."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO THE WINSTON CUP TEAM, IF YOU WERE INJURED RUNNING INDY?
"The easiest way I can explain that is look at how many people - and just look in the Charlotte area - and look in the paper at how many auto accidents there are per day on the highways. It's a half hour drive from my house to here. I've got a greater chance of getting hurt driving to this speedway today and tomorrow than I do getting in a race car. More people get hurt or die in auto accidents on freeways every day than do in race cars.
"It's just like we do at the Winston Cup shop. The guys in Indianapolis have built me the safest car possible. They worked very, very long on my seat making sure that if I was in an accident that that seat is going to protect me the best that it can. The rest of it is going to have to take care of itself. People are questioning how determined I am to take care of the Winston Cup side. It's not a question of that at all. When you grow up 45 minutes from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all your life, every May when you got home from school that is the first thing that you did was turn on the TV and you didn't turn it off until 6 o'clock when the track closed, it's not hard to understand how important Indianapolis is to somebody like myself who has grown up there. It doesn't mean that I don't care about what is going on with my Winston Cup side, but that is a goal that I've had all my life, as has been Winston Cup. When I was eight years old, did I honestly think that I was going to have an opportunity to accomplish either goal? Absolutely not. But I'm in a unique position to where not only have I been involved in Indy car racing and that keeps my involvement and my interest to where I still have that opportunity to go win Indy, but at the same time, now I'm involved in Winston Cup racing. I'm just in a unique situation where I can try to do both now. The day where a guy used to run Indianapolis during the day and that night he'd go across the street to 16th Street Speedway and run a midget on dirt, those days are over. The sponsors won't let drivers do that and car owners won't let drivers do that. That's why I've always been so impressed with Home Depot and Joe Gibbs Racing because they both realize that I'm a race car driver. I don't just show up and run 36 Winston Cup races a year. I go out and run other things on the side, but they make sure that I'm doing it in a safe way and they're making sure that the cars I run outside of Winston Cup are as safe as possible. That is my commitment to them is making sure that anything I get in that is not a Winston Cup car is prepared as safe as possible to where I'm not doing anything to jeopardize what I'm doing with the Winston Cup side. It just makes me thankful that I've got a good sponsor and a good car owner that understand what my dreams and goals are."
DOES RUNNING THE WINSTON THE WEEK BEFORE THE '600' MAKE IT EASIER TO ACCOMPLISH THIS?
"We kind of look at it as a luxury, having The Winston the week before. I'm not going to miss any practice for the Winston Cup side on the '600' weekend. All I've got left at Indy to do before the race is just go up for Carburetion Day and that's basically just to shake the car down and scuff about three or four sets of tires in. That's all I need to do at Indianapolis before the race."
"My engineer on the Indy side is in Japan this week for the CART race, so we really didn't have an opportunity to work together anymore this week anyway. Basically, my job up there is done for the most part. It allows me the time to spend this week with The Winston and next week, starting on Thursday in the afternoon to dedicate my time to the Home Depot Pontiac. The only thing we really need to do is worry about the race on Sunday. Really, it's been an easier schedule with the added week at Indy. Pole weekend was on our off weekend, so if anything it has made my load a lot easier this year than two years ago. I haven't had to have all the plane rides back and forth. That took a lot out of us to do that. We haven't had to do any of that this year. Like I say, Carburetion Day next week, that is the only time that we're going to have to do the back and forth deal. Our 'Happy Hour' next Saturday is early in the morning, so it gives me all afternoon to get to Indianapolis early and have the whole evening to relax. I feel like the schedule has worked out really well. Now if we can get the TV guys to help us out and do what they do best and talk on TV for an extra half hour, it would make my life a little easier. But, who knows what they'll do?"
WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES THAT YOU MADE WHEN YOU TRIED THIS TWO YEARS AGO?
"I'll tell you exactly what I ate on race day (in 1999). I had two mini-bagels and I had half of a NutriGrain bar in the airplane, and that's all I had on Sunday, except for what they tried to feed me in the car on race day about 200 laps into the race here. That was my biggest mistake. They were so worried about me being dehydrated that I drank like - I swore I was a fish. I thought I could breathe under water after all I drank, but I didn't eat any solid foods with enough nutrients in it. That's where Al comes into play this year. He is giving me foods and I'm going, 'I thought this was bad for me,' and he goes, 'No, trust me, this is good for you.' He know exactly what he is feeding me and why, and what purpose it is. That is the biggest thing. I'm not a nutritionist. I'm a race car driver. It's just as easy for me to drive through the McDonalds's drive-through and get my sandwich and go on down the road and have at it. Having him here has probably been the biggest asset to making sure that we do it right this year - just making sure that I'm getting the right fluids and foods in my mouth."
AL SHUFFORD, CERTIFIED PHYSICAL TRAINER, JOE GIBBS RACING:
ON TONY'S CURRENT PHYSICAL CONDITION
"You've got to give Tony all the credit for getting in shape. I tell people that he has been like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. He has done everything that has been asked of him to do. Even if it was chewing leaves and jumping up and down out of a tree, if I told him to go do that he would probably do that. That is how dedicated and how focused he is."
HOW TOUGH HAS YOUR JOB BEEN?
"This has been one of the easiest things for me to do because of the focus that he has and the drive that he has. My job has actually really been easy. I tell everybody that. He wants to win. Believe it or not, he thinks he can win both races and I haven't told him differently and nobody else has. For me, my job has been extremely easy. I came with some certain things that we were going to do and certain boundaries to stay within and he has been within an inch of those boundaries on the inside."
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS WITH TONY IN THIS PROCESS?
"Essentially our goals have always been the same. At Gibbs we have this comprehensive program and this is not something that we started a week ago. In terms of fluid, nutrition, regular exercise routine mixed in with their Winston Cup schedule - it's part of the routine we've had at Gibbs for the last couple of years. This is not a crash diet we started week ago. We are just kind of honing in just a little bit to make sure there are not loop holes that we don't miss like last time. Everybody remembers what happened last time with the stretcher and him supposedly falling out of the car. It looked worse than it really was and I want to say that to everybody. The program is still the same comprehensive program that we do at Gibbs Racing. We offer the same program to the pit crews, to the industrial side of it - so it's nothing new."
J.D. GIBBS, PRESIDENT, JOE GIBBS RACING:
WAS THIS A TOUGH DECISION FOR GIBBS RACING?
"Yeah. Tony came in my office and shut the door, and at first I though he was kidding when he told me what he wanted to do. But he convinced me and he has some good points. Everyone has dreams and goals that they set for themselves. Tony made it clear before he ever signed the first contract with us that this is something that he wanted to do. We thought about it and kind of gave him a list of things. We thought if he could meet these objectives then it wouldn't be a problem from the Joe Gibbs Racing standpoint. He met them all. So far - and Al [Shufford] can attest to it - he has done a great job of preparing himself for it. I really have to say a big thank you to the guys at Home Depot - to Hugh Miskell and to Kirsten [Kinder] - and our pilot Wayne Cook. We've got the back-up helicopters, back-up planes, we've got the whole thing ready. General Sadler even had us looking into an F-16 to fly him over here and drop him off. We figured that would be cool. Just have an F-16 take him and then parachute him out the back. But we didn't tell Tony because he probably would have done it. We feel pretty good about the whole situation."