Atlanta II: Winning team press conference

RACE WINNERS TONY STEWART AND GREG ZIPADELLI, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS Q: ON THE RACE: TONY STEWART: "I'm really happy. This is an important race for us with Home Depot's headquarters here in Atlanta and also Coca-Cola, so this is...

RACE WINNERS TONY STEWART AND GREG ZIPADELLI, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS

Q: ON THE RACE:

TONY STEWART: "I'm really happy. This is an important race for us with Home Depot's headquarters here in Atlanta and also Coca-Cola, so this is always a big weekend for us. Last night we had an event at Bob Nardelli's house (CEO of Home Depot) and a cookout for all the team guys. We were able to give him his 2005 Nextel Cup Series trophy that finally came in. So it's just been a big week. Obviously winning the IROC championship yesterday was huge. Even before that in Happy Hour, the car was really good. Zippy and I were talking about the lap times and how consistent they were. We were really optimistic. I told Bob Nardelli we had a top three car. It was just a matter of how the weather was going to be different today and how the track was going to change during the race.

"So when the green flag dropped today, the car drove exactly like it did at the end of Happy Hour yesterday. That's real uncommon. I was encouraged at that point that we had something good to work with. It was just a matter of fine-tuning all day. I don't think we ever made any big adjustments. We just kept making small adjustments all day and trying different combinations to find exactly what the car liked to do in long runs. We got up front early and held good track position all day. The guys had good pit stops. At the end, track position was going to be really huge because everybody was really fast at the end with the cool temperatures. I was really proud of my guys and of Zippy most of all for making the call to come in and get four tires. He let me know that we had lost six tenths of a second between our first lap and our 10th lap on our 10-lap run before the caution came out. We needed to come in and get tires. I just didn't know how many he was going to put on. He made an awesome call putting four tires on. The No. 99 car was the only on that beat us out and he took two. We got by him before the caution came out.

"That gave us a buffer between us and Jimmie (Johnson) that let me focus more on the No. 8 car. I pretty much knew all day where he was going to go on the restart so I knew he was going to give me the bottom and I got a really good run through Turns 1 and 2 and got underneath him on the backstretch and it was just a matter of making sure I could get clear of him before we got to Turn 3 because if he tucked down on the right rear, it was going to make us really loose. So I just tried to drive it in really hard for one lap and know that I was sacrificing the tires; but I just needed to clear him.

"Then it was just a matter of running our pace at that point and watching for the next couple of laps and Junior was still in second but we were pulling away. So it was just a matter of pacing ourselves. Being Atlanta, you can really hurt your tires early if you try to overrun them too soon. So it was just a matter of running the pace we needed to run to keep the interval that we had."

ZIPPY: "Well like Tony said, with this being Home Depot's headquarters and with Bob and his family here it was a great weekend and a great win for us. And with our relationship with Bass Pro Shops, we couldn't ask for a better day. Everybody did a great job this weekend. This is the car that we won Kansas with. We brought it here and now we'll take it to Texas. It's been a good car. We unloaded and we were good. We didn't make a lot of changes all weekend. It was a fun weekend. The pressure was off because we unloaded and we were so good. The pit stops were awesome when they counted. We made some aggressive adjustments on the first stop because I wanted to see how the car would react. We had to put it all back and by the end of the night we were able to put it all back to just the way we were after the first stop when it was too free. It was a great car and a great job by Tony of keeping track of the tires and the tire-wear and that's what it took was protecting that track position. We stayed in the top three or four all day and staying in position and that's what we were able to do."

Q: ON THE DEBRIS CAUTION FOR THE PIECE OF ROLL BAR PADDING

TONY STEWART: "Well, it's better than them throwing lead out, I guess. I guess at least if you hit it, it's not going to hurt anything. That's somebody that just needed a caution. That's not unheard of. There has been roll bar padding laying on race tracks for probably 50 years now. So that's a quick way to get a caution. It was on the race track and was a legitimate caution. It would just be nice to know who threw it out. How many laps were left?"

ZIPPY: "I think it was about 30 (laps) to go. We were all going to have to stop at 25 to go and take tires and fuel."

Q: WHEN GORDON AND EARNHARDT JR. DIDN'T MAKE THE CHASE LAST YEAR, THEY USED THIS TIME TO GET READY FOR THIS YEAR. IS THAT YOUR APPROACH?

TONY STEWART: "We're strictly just trying to win races. We come out with a new car next year with the Impala SS and the flying brick next year with the Car of Tomorrow (laughter). So we've got two totally new cars to run next year. I can't believe I said that out loud. I was thinking it. That thing ought to be interesting. We've got two new cars anyway. The way technology changes, it would be lovely to say that what we're learning right now is stuff we'll be able to use right away next year, but it changes so fast that for us, it's just a matter of going out and winning races. We couldn't script this weekend better. It's been an awesome weekend for us."

Q: IS THIS LIKE SUMMER VACATION?

TONY STEWART: "It's just that the nice thing is you don't have to worry about points. I didn't worry about anybody but ourselves. I'm sure Kenseth and Junior and those guys were thinking about where the other guys in the Chase were in relationship to them tonight. It just takes the pressure off of us and lets us go back to doing what we do best and that's just going out and trying to win races. So, at this point in the Chase, those guys are singling out who is closest to them and trying to figure out what they've got to do to go to Homestead and try to win the Cup. We don't have to worry about that. We're strictly just worried about what it took to win tonight and do a good job for Home Depot and Coke and Bass Pro."

Q: ON SOMEONE'S CALCULATION THAT HE WOULD BE SECOND IN POINTS NOW IF HE WAS IN THE CHASE:

TONY STEWART: "But we aren't in the Chase, so it doesn't matter does it? It isn't any more frustrating because after Richmond was over, we just weren't in the Chase. The focus changed at that point. Please, do not start trying to turn and twist this thing and make it a media frenzy on would of's, could of's, should of's and all that. Leave it the way it is. It is what it is. Don't make a circus because of it. If we were in the Chase, we would not have been able to do what we did at Kansas City. Tonight would have been the same night but Kansas City might have turned out totally different because we would not have been able to take that chance. We wouldn't have gotten as many points probably.

"We just missed the Chase, guys. Once we missed the Chase in Richmond, that was it. The guys that are racing for the championship are racing for the championship. There is a lot of pressure on those guys. Sometimes it gets you off your game a little bit, sometimes it forces you to be a little more conservative and sometimes because of the pressure, you make mistakes. Those guys are in a totally different situation than we are. It is easier for us to just go out and try and win races. It is not frustrating at all to me that we have gotten more points than these guys. We are out there to win each race. Those guys are in a totally different situation. It is just two totally different scenarios right now."

Q: ON NOT HAVING PRESSURE AND YOU RUNNING WELL VERSUS GUYS IN THE CHASE UNDER PRESSURE AND HAVING PROBLEMS:

TONY STEWART: "I can't speak for those guys obviously but I think we have been working really, really hard to get caught up to Richard Childress Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing in the things they have caught on to again this fall.

"A similar situation last year, minus RCR, we got kind of behind a little bit in the middle of the summer so Zippy and the engineering staff at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) did an awesome job. When we went to Homestead, we learned a lot, I think some of the things we learned there, we used here and we will use at Texas, Phoenix and obviously at Homestead. It is stuff we can use this year, but it is one of those things we just have to do our homework just like everybody else does. It shows you how important it is to find something.

"You look at RCR and where they were last year. About mid-point in the summer they really got on stride and really started running well. Not just one of the cars; but all three cars are good. They obviously found something that worked. It is like I talked about earlier. Technology in this sport is in a constant state of change. What is good right now might not be good in February. It is up to us, even as good as we were last fall and last summer, you can get behind very easily. Winning the championship helps you get behind because you think you are on top and you believe you are doing everything right. But everything goes through the cycle of technology and change, you have to fight really hard to stay up on what is going on."

Q: ON LOOKING AT CHASE FROM WHERE THEY SIT:

ZIPPY: "You see Jimmie Johnson doing a great job rebounding from the issues he had earlier. You see a rookie Denny Hamlin and that team not as good as they would have wanted tonight, but doing a very good job to recover and get a top-10. They are obviously the underdogs but I think they have shown week in and week out that they can run up there and that is who I am rooting for. Other than that, it is kind of confusing to look around and see who is there one week and then who is not there the next week. I guess that is just the way it is this year. We have seen that in the past, it is going to come down to Homestead and that is going to be the interesting thing."

Q: ON FAKING COMING DOWN PIT ROAD UNDER CAUTION LATE IN THE RACE:

TONY STEWART: "My plan was to come in, I just didn't want to show them until the last minute that I was coming in. We have been caught in situations where I have had to make a split second decision and most the time I made the wrong one being on the race track so, we knew we were able to set the tone for what everybody else was doing. If we caught somebody out, that was somebody that was going to be a wounded duck, on the restart after that. It paid off for us, I am not sure I really faked anybody out but, I would say Junior's strategy was to stay out no matter what we did. It almost caused Jimmie Johnson a penalty because he almost missed getting inside the cones. To a certain degree it paid off."

Q: ON BEING EASIER TO CLIMB FENCE WITH WORKOUT REGIME HE IS UNDER:

TONY STEWART: "Didn't you see how short of time it took me to get up there? I thought I got up there pretty dang gone quick for a semi-fat kid, I am not as fat as I used to be. (David) Poole already put me on probation for the eating team. I have to be careful about what I do from here out, I could lose my membership and team status with Poole. On nights like to night, 500 miles is a long race and especially when the pace is fast as it is. We are running 29.5 seconds around here and that is pretty fast for a mile and a half track. To run that pace and run it all night, when I got out of the car, you saw how fast I got up there. I thought I got up there pretty quick. If you go stand underneath it, it isn't as easy of a climb as it looks. To do what we did, I feel like I feel good. Obviously adrenaline is a big factor in it too but on a night like tonight when you have everything go your way in front of your sponsors and some of your best friends, it is a nice night."

Q: ON HAVING MORE FUN NOT BEING IN THE CHASE:

TONY STEWART: "As a team we knew it wasn't the end of the world. When it happened, we were obviously devastated; but when you look at the season we had and the adversity that we overcame, to just be in a position to where we could race to get in the Chase and stay in the Chase, that was a pretty big accomplishment for us. It didn't work out our way, it didn't work out for two of the biggest names in NASCAR last year. It is just part of the sport, it shows how competitive the series is and when we didn't get in, it wasn't the end of the world; we just switched our focus. We didn't have the goal of trying to win a championship anymore, so it was to do what we did tonight, which was go out and try to win races. It hasn't changed the focus and attitude of our team. The smiles on the faces of those guys showed that. We are happy because the plan we set out for the remaining 10 races, we are on schedule with. We won two races. Last year we didn't win any races when we were in the Chase.

"At least since the Chase has started, we have won two races. I think that is a good accomplishment for our team. We have won four races this year. I think we have a lot to be proud of."

Q: ON HAVING A FAVORITE TO WIN THE TITLE:

TONY STEWART: "Honestly I don't even know what the points are after tonight. Like Zippy said, the No. 48 team is doing a great job. Jimmie and Chad are doing an awesome job. I am really proud of our teammate, Denny Hamlin. I don't know where everybody is right now. The thing that is exciting for me that I think there are seven teams that have never won a championship before and it really exciting to know that there is a good shot that one of these teams, that have never won one can get their first. I know what that meant to me, and I would be excited if one of those teams that has never won a championship won it. Not that I am rooting against the three teams and drivers that are in the Chase that have won a championship, but to see one of these guys get their first, that is something that would be really cool."

Q: ON KNOWING IF YOU COULD PASS ANYBODY:

TONY STEWART: "No, not necessarily. Track position was very important. When Dale, Jr. went by us, on that one run, we had a hard time staying with him and up to that point, we had been a stronger car than he was. I think it was a situation where you had to be really patient and not overdrive the car at the front of the run, and get in a situation where you started building a lot of heat in the right front tire and getting the air pressure up. You kind of had to let guys go when they got in front of you like that. It wasn't a deal where you could just pull the pin and drive by guys. As fast as we were running tonight, it made the aero side of it even worse. I was so happy with our guys on our pit stops tonight. We only lost one position in the pits the whole day, it was one of those early stops Zippy was talking about. For us being able to maintain track position was huge. My car was best when it was out front in clean air it just really drove well. So having that track position was huge."

Q: ON GETTING THE MONSTER TROPHY BACK TO COLUMBUS INDIANA:

TONY STEWART: "The plan has been set that as we speak, they are disassembling the trophy and put it in the cases and put it in the hauler. It will go back to Joe Gibbs Racing and be reassembled and leave it there on display until I built my new log home in Indiana. Then we will disassembly, transport and reassemble. A lot of work, but shoot, I would rather have lot work carrying something that cool around. That is a cool trophy. If you look around at all the trophies we get in the Nextel Cup Series, Bass Pro Shops has one to have some of the coolest trophies in the history of the sport."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports