Atlanta: Second, third finishers press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Tony, you may want to answer this. NASCAR always seems to feel it's safety first. Is this to you, A No. 1, a safety issue more than anything else? TONY STEWART: Well, I mean, nobody got hurt today luckily that I...

Continued from part 1

Q: Tony, you may want to answer this. NASCAR always seems to feel it's safety first. Is this to you, A No. 1, a safety issue more than anything else?

TONY STEWART: Well, I mean, nobody got hurt today luckily that I know of. You know, it's like Junior said. I mean, it's a PR game. That's the reason that Goodyear spends the money they spend in NASCAR to be the exclusive tire provider. It's good advertising for 'em.

But with that comes a responsibility. And, you know, it is, A, a responsibility of providing safe tires for us. But at the same time you got to provide a product that is competitive and is current and leads us to be able to do the things in the racecar that NASCAR expects us to be able to do as drivers during the course of a race.

You know, what it's gonna take to do that I don't know. I mean, we don't have the answers. I'm not any smarter than their engineers are. But, like we said, there's guys that have been in this business that have been here for a lot of years with that company and doesn't seem like that at this point they've got a very good handle on all those years of, you know, trial and error.

Q: The way that the tires are provided has changed in the last two seasons where there's the lease system, you don't buy the tires, you turn them back in. Do you think the change in the system creates less incentive to make production schedules? Do you think this whole system has anything to do with the tire situation getting worse?

TONY STEWART: I honestly don't know. But, you know, honestly that's not our responsibility as competitors. I mean, that's not at all anybody in NASCAR's responsibility. That's not the teams' responsibilities. That's not the drivers' responsibility. Goodyear signed a contract with NASCAR to provide these tires for the next five years. With that comes their responsibility. It doesn't matter how they do it. We don't care (loss of audio). I'll be honest, I don't want to take them home. I don't have anything I'd bolt them on (loss of audio).

Q: (No audio.)

TONY STEWART: That's the nature of the beast. It strictly was handling. If you could get your car to carry more momentum through the corner, you could be probably 10 horsepower down and run the same lap time as somebody that had 10 more horsepower if you just got your car driving good.

I was happy with what we had today. Obviously when we get back, we want more. But we're on stage, we're three or four races into the schedule. We're still trying to get the reliability. Knock on wood, we haven't had any motor failures, and that's because they're smart enough to know when to push that envelope and when to not. To have us run 1 2 today and to know we've still got more back at the shop, I would say we're in pretty shape in that category.

Q: Dale, first four races, third time you've been the top Hendrick driver. Coming off of last week's finish, too. What has it meant for you to get off to this type of start in your situation?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I'm desperate, you know, just to get in the top five and the top 10 every week when the car's capable of doing it. There's a real sense of desperation there the last half of the race not to mess it up. We had a good finish going. So I don't want to miss the Chase. The sky might fall.

We'll just keep working like we're working. Everything's good. Tony, Jr. is going good. Today again was frustrating for me and him. But we're past it, looking on to the future.

You know, everything seems to be working out really good. I just want to keep it going. You know what I mean? I'm just trying not to make any mistakes myself. They gave me great, great racecars. They're really good looking cars. They do a good job building them. They're pretty confident in their ability, so hopefully I can do my end of the job.

Q: With a tire like this, how deep do you have to go into the adjustment playbook? You're trying anything you can find to make it better?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was just trying to get it to where I could put up with it. I was just trying to get it tolerable. There were a couple times in the race where I had it there, but we'd go we wouldn't really even make changes. A half pound of air pressure in the left rear just spun me right out.

It was really frustrating. I'm glad we're past it. Hopefully there was a good lesson learned. Hopefully, you know, Goodyear doesn't like to hear people bashing them tires, and I don't like doing it, but I ain't going to sit here and put up with this. I don't think any of the other drivers or anybody, you know, is going to do it.

So hopefully we can all get along and come up with something better than this. They got a tire test tomorrow at Darlington, and I'm going to go down there.

TONY STEWART: As a matter of fact, we invite all of you to go down there tomorrow, too, and give us a report.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'd just like to know how that process goes. I went to Texas and tire tested, but they didn't ask me much, what I thought. So I just sit there and, you know, they got these other guys doing the testing. But the times that I've done it, I didn't feel like my input was observed or looked over too well.

I'm going to go tomorrow and just kind of watch and see what drivers are saying and see what they're thinking.

Q: Was there a sense of relief at the end? I know you'd liked to have gotten the win, but you both finished in the top five, no one got hurt, the race was over.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was glad it was over. I was counting the laps.

Q: Kyle Busch led over 300 laps this weekend in the various divisions. A lot of them were sideways. Is he able to go faster just 'cause he's throwing caution to the wind and driving sideways?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I mean, he's a good talent. I think that everybody I never really worked with him as closely as Tony and my teammates that have now. But they all say he's an amazing talent. And he's just got great, you know, seat of the pants feel for a car, and he can drive 'em pretty sideways.

We get sideways, too, but we just ain't never leading when we're doing it.

TONY STEWART: That and we've crashed a lot more, too. So we know what it's like if we make that mistake (laughter).

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We've hit harder. That will slow you down a little bit.

TONY STEWART: He is. He's amazing to me. You know, I'm proud to have him as a teammate. I think he's been a huge asset to Joe Gibbs Racing, obviously. It's fun to watch him. I mean, the nights that he runs the truck race and we're sitting in the bus, I mean, I normally don't pay as close attention (loss of audio). He's got everything that car is capable of. That's what you want out of a guy. You know, any time you try to fix one of those problems, you can make the problems worse. When it comes to making all the adjustments you want to make, you want to start (loss of audio).

Q: If this tire made it so hard to drive out there, why do you think there weren't more wrecks, more cautions? Could you expound on that a little bit, please?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I mean, just look at the lap times we were running. What were they, 34 second laps at the end of the tire run, 33.70s. That's why. We were all trying not to wreck.

TONY STEWART: That and you couldn't get close enough to each other. You never stayed around any one person for very long because you just couldn't. I mean, they became so aero dependent because you have mechanical grip, which is your tires, your shocks and your springs, then you've got your aero balance. If you take away that mechanical grip, making a hard tire took away mechanical grip, you're relying even that much more on the aero percentage. And that leads to not being closer to guys.

And when guys' cars are driving as bad when we lapped guys, we got a chance to see a lot of guys. We know how bad our cars drove and we finished in the top five. Can you imagine the guys running in 20th, 25th place, how bad their cars drove. Well, we got to see it. The reason they weren't crashing is they weren't willing to run it any harder than that.

When you're not around guys, you probably around you know, you're not going to push the issue as much as when you're racing somebody for position and you try that extra little bit and step over that line. You know, we just didn't have those situations today and I think that's why you didn't see any more cautions than you did and you didn't see any more wrecks than you did. It's because guys got separated. You were racing yourself. You really weren't racing anybody else. You were racing your car and how it was driving on the racetrack.

Q: Obviously a lot of advances have been made in driver safety. Is this tire going to end up costing somebody down the road? Is that why you're so outspoken, is due to the driver safety issue?

TONY STEWART: I don't think it's so much that as just, you know, nobody liked the way their cars drove. I mean, a series at this level, I mean, we expect our racecars to drive better than that and we expect a tire that's up to that level of competition that the teams build the cars. And that's not what we had. We had a tire that didn't meet the standards of the competition here obviously. You know, obviously if we crashed a bunch of cars today, then obviously that would have been a bigger concern.

But with no more crashes than we had, I don't think it's an issue of safety as much as it is just an issue of performance and comfort in the car and feeling comfortable driving your racecar. When you feel like you're holding your breath all day, I mean, when everybody in the field was tired when they got out of their cars today, that normally doesn't happen here like that. I mean, when you're that tired, it's 'cause you had to work even that much harder.

It's not that we're scared to work. There's none of us scared to work behind the wheel of a racecar. It's being put in that position that we don't like.

Q: When you guys say you don't want to work that hard, it will come across that way. Can you define how hard it is in the racecar as how hard it would be before and where the line is? I know people will tear that apart. I'm truthfully asking for you to define it, if you would.

TONY STEWART: That makes sense. Let's see if we can put it in a way that makes more sense.

Like Dale said, you know, we're accustomed to running two seconds faster here. We're still as drivers (loss of audio). It's just not as comfortable as doing it. When you go in a corner and you don't know if the thing is going to jump out from underneath you or if it's actually going to go straight when you get to the corner, that's a pretty big concern. That makes you hold your breath getting in. That makes you tense up. That's why we're more tired today than we would be on a day when we have a tire that does have grip.

We're still going to drive these cars to get better performance and speed out of them as we can. So are the teams. We made changes in the garage area during practice and it didn't make the car do anything any different. I mean, it didn't respond to it. When you make changes like that and the (loss of audio).

So don't confuse me saying that. You know, we'll still work just as hard. But we'll go two seconds faster doing it. But it's more comfortable doing it when you got a different tire.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I'll say that I think what Tony means is that we'd rather be working trying to accomplish other things, like changing my line to get more speed to gain on somebody, to be able to turn the wheel and drive the car.

Today you couldn't go, All right, let me run at the top a little bit, because I knew I would back into the fence. When I tried to catch Tony there at the end, it just slid in there like it was on marbles. You run to the bottom, you're just as helpless down there. (Loss of audio) trying to gain. So really, you're just working hard. Nothing's coming from it.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing